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Six Traits That Unsuccessful Coaching Clients Have In Common

Updated: May 30, 2023

As a professional coach in Salt Lake City for a few years now, I have worked with a small handful of clients who didn’t seem to get the greatest value from coaching. Life coaching is an investment in your personal or professional growth and it can be expensive. It’s important to me that my clients are feeling confident and reassured about their investment. If you want to know what traits unsuccessful clients have in common so you can avoid wasting time and money in coaching, keep reading.

Any information related to the client's direct experiences has been altered to protect client confidentiality.


Resistance to new ideas and an unwillingness to step outside the comfort zone will hinder coaching success. Coaching aims to challenge clients to think in new and unconventional ways, encouraging them to embrace fresh problem-solving approaches that move them toward their goals. If a client resists change and remains unwilling to entertain the possibility that their current approach to life is hindering their progress, they may not be prepared to make progress in coaching.

Embrace personal growth by being open to new experiences and perspectives. I don't expect my clients to do anything that would lead to discomfort and harm. There is a difference between doing something outside of a client's comfort zone that challenges them to grow and learn and doing something that puts them at risk. I work to communicate a clear distinction with my clients that puts them in a position to grow and overcome challenges. Clients who lean into that partnership are the ones who experience great growth and transformation.


Clients who lack preparation for their coaching sessions tend to have less success. It's crucial to arrive on time and ready to discuss a specific topic. Some clients respond with "I don't know" when asked what they want to work on, which is understandable occasionally. However, it shows a lack of prior consideration if it becomes a recurring pattern. While we can assist in identifying a session topic, it can be time-consuming.

Clients benefit more by arriving prepared and having thought about what they want to work on with their coach for that session. Before coming to a session, clients should consider asking themselves, "What do I want to talk about with my coach today that aligns with my goals?" or, "What is something I need to spend time working through with my coach today." These questions will hopefully generate some ideas for how to spend quality time with your coach during your session.


Sometimes life gets in the way and clients may need to reschedule their sessions. It's understandable and we all have to do it from time to time. But continuous rescheduling or canceling could hinder progress and might indicate that they are not fully ready for the coaching process. In such cases, clients may feel frustrated that they invested time and money without seeing much progress toward their goals. Clients can mistakenly attribute their lack of progress to coaching not working for them when, in reality, they are not fully committed to the coaching process. It's no surprise that they may feel inclined to quit if they aren't actively engaging in the work.

Clients will achieve better outcomes when they prioritize themselves and their coaching sessions, dedicating consistent time and effort to their coaching practice.


Imagine your coach multitasking during your virtual session - it would feel strange, right? If you're sharing something important and hear them ordering food, shopping, cooking a meal, or grooming their pet, you'd feel dismissed. The same goes for your coach if they sense distractions from you. Believe it or not, I have experienced all of these interactions and more with distracted clients in virtual sessions over the years. Distracted clients often quit coaching, feeling disconnected and probably like they're not getting their money's worth.

When both coach and client are fully engaged, it's like an awesome dance of productive exchanges that leave clients feeling valued and satisfied. If you're doing in-person sessions, you're less likely to struggle with such distractions. But if you're doing virtual sessions, do your best to find a quiet space with minimal distractions. Try practicing mindfulness to get more centered and present before jumping into your call. This will help you to be focused and attentive for the meaningful conversation you'll have with your coach.


Clients who struggle with accountability may stagnate and feel tempted to quit coaching. Sometimes, clients fail to accomplish agreed-upon action items, for reasons like lack of significance or unexpected life circumstances- it happens. However, if a client consistently neglects progress between sessions, it may suggest a lack of personal accountability. They may be relying too heavily on the coaching session itself to make an impact. While coaching provides accountability through sessions, goal-setting, and feedback, clients are encouraged to maintain personal accountability and do personal work in between sessions.

Taking notes during sessions helps retain insights and helps to stay focused on your goals throughout the week. Following through with commitments is crucial to seeing progress. I often say, "The real coaching happens between sessions," emphasizing the importance of client work outside sessions to drive progress.


This almost doesn’t happen enough for me to mention but I do think it’s important to say that change takes time, and progress isn’t always immediate. While I haven’t had a whole lot of experiences with clients expecting immediate results, I have worked with clients who experience a really great couple of sessions and then get discouraged when the momentum slows down. They then believe they’ve gotten all there is to get from coaching and might become detached, disinterested, or bored and give up too soon.

Be patient and stay committed to the coaching process. Trust that your coach has your best interests and that progress will come with time and continuous effort.

Displaying these traits as a client doesn't automatically mean they're some sort of failure. It's an opportunity for growth and improvement. Awareness of these traits is what empowers the client to work on them during coaching. If you're someone considering hiring a coach and want to make sure you're going to get the most out of your time and investment, consider reflecting on these traits. If you are ready to embrace change, invest time and energy, hold yourself accountable, trust the process, and prioritize your progress then you're ready to start your work in coaching.

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