Coaching Challenge #1: Coaching the Uncoachable

I am starting a new series this month to provide tips for tackling Coaching Challenges.

The first in the series deals with a particularly prickly challenge – coaching the uncoachable.

The idea that some people are uncoachable goes against my grain – I like to think everyone can be coached – if we just take the right approach. I’ll admit that there are some individuals that are very difficult to coach. And I guess I must accept that there may be a few who really are uncoachable because they don’t see or believe there is any need to change. Today I’ll give you a few tips on what to do if you find yourself in a position to coach the uncoachable.

You may run across individuals that seem to be uncoachable at many different levels within an organization but you are more likely to find them at the top. These individuals typically have a lot of experience, they have made it to the top on their own, doing things their way. So, their thinking is often - why would they need to be coached? Or, they think it is everyone else who needs to change and others who could use coaching – not them.

But let’s be real – some get to the top based more on politics and charisma than performance and competence. Now, I am not saying that they don’t make contributions to their organizations but it is HOW they got there and HOW they interact with others that is the issue. Because of their approach or style, they often end up creating a toxic environment. Short-term they may be achieving their goals but long-term these same characteristics can end up derailing them. If you haven’t run into an uncoachable yet, you will find that uncoachables at the top of an organization often exhibit greed, arrogance, reckless risk-taking and other detrimental characteristics. Every top executive can benefit from coaching but not everyone sees it that way.

When it comes to coaching these uncoachables you need to flip the script. Rather than focus on their strengths it is more important to focus on what could potentially derail them and negatively impact their organization and their career.

Here are a few tips to get started when you are ready to coach an uncoachable.

  • Understand their motivations, goals and personality and work with these not against them
  • Help the coachee to see potential issues that could end up derailing their upward trajectory. This might involve gaining insight into WHY their approach has worked so far but then taking a long-term view to see how this approach could turn into a liability for them and their organization
  • Help the coachee to discover how they can remain authentic but add new approaches, thinking and tools to achieve their goals that won’t become a liability

If you have an uncoachable challenge I think you will find our Personal Groundwork for Coaching (PGFC) Program™ and the PGFC Workbook particularly helpful. You will learn advanced listening, questioning and framing techniques designed to help with the more challenging coaching situations. Advanced skills will focus on helping coachees get to the root, expose blind spots and overcome resistance to change. In the case of the uncoachable, you will learn how to help them gain an awareness of what can derail their career and discover new approaches that will be an asset to them and their organization rather than a liability.