When not to use coaching!

There are plenty of good reasons to use coaching as a development tool for individuals, but it’s not always the right approach.  Here’s a few ideas from us about when we think coaching might not be the answer.

When the issue is systemic

Coaching is most effective when focused on developing an individual’s skills, behaviours, and leadership qualities.  However, it falls short when the challenges are systemic within the organisation, such as cultural issues, structural problems, or widespread disengagement among employees.  In such cases, organisational development (OD) interventions, such as cultural transformation programs, might be more appropriate.

When immediate crisis management is required

Coaching is a process-oriented approach designed for the long-term development of a person and it’s not usually aimed at fixing a short-term problem.  That’s why coaching programmes are usually between six and twelve sessions.  In situations where an individual in an organisation faces a critical issue that requires swift action, such as a financial downturn, legal issues, or public relations crises, hiring a consultant with expertise in crisis management might be more beneficial.

When the person doesn’t want it and won’t engage

The success of coaching relies heavily on two factors: the relationship between the coach and the coachee and the coachee’s willingness to engage in the process, reflect, and make necessary changes.  If a person consistently turns up to coaching sessions with nothing that they want to work on, or is resistant to feedback, unwilling to change, or not committed to doing the homework between sessions, it’s unlikely that coaching will yield significant results.

As a substitute for line management

Coaching should be an adjunct to management (particularly performance management) and not a replacement for it.  If you try and outsource the responsibility for managing an individual and expect their coach to fulfil this function, you are likely to waste time and money and quite possibly make any problems worse.  

When you really want training, education or mentoring

Coaching is excellent for developing soft skills, such as leadership, communication, and strategic thinking.  However, when a person needs to acquire or enhance specific technical skills or knowledge, targeted training programmes, educational courses, or mentoring are more appropriate.

Where a person has complex psychological needs

Most coaches are not trained mental health professionals and are not equipped to deal with anxiety, depression, and other serious psychological issues.  There are coach-therapists out there (both Sixth Sense directors fall into this category), but they are comparatively rare and you need to specifically seek them out if it’s these skills that you need.

Our conclusion

Coaching is a powerful tool for development and growth, but it’s not a panacea for all organisational challenges.  Recognising the scenarios where coaching is not advisable is crucial for ensuring that resources are allocated effectively, and that people receive the support they need in the most appropriate form.


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