Dealing with Resistance to Being Coached

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 12-16-21

I coach coaches. That’s obviously the only thing that I do, but I spend a significant portion of my time coaching people who are trying to coach others. One of the most common questions I receive in this domain is…

What do we do when someone is resistant to coaching?

I have two answers to this important, and frequent, question.

My first answer is that you should work around whatever that barrier might be. Do they just not want coaching from you? Find someone else. Do they not want to be considered as “coached?” Call it something else. Do they not want to work at the cadence that you expect? Find a different cadence. Do they not like questions? Then issue challenges. Do they like to be right? Then help them find their own answers that they consider right. 

The point is if you are standing on the top of the mountain and they are at the bottom, following your path up the mountainside may not be their path. They may need to have or find their own path. Not only should you allow that, but you should encourage it. The goal is to get them climbing the mountain, and it doesn’t really matter if you take the scenic route, have to carry their pack or travel as a group. Do whatever is necessary to get them climbing. 

The second answer is the exception to the rule. When the issue that they most need to improve in order to climb is the same issue that holds them back from receiving coaching, then you must address that head-on. Are they unwilling to submit to learning? Then you must remove them from their comfort zone. Are they unwilling to receive advice from you, and you’re their boss? Then you better come to an understanding. Are they only able to lead through power and control? Then remove them from power and have them lead anyway. 

The goal of the coach is to create the opportunity for self-discovery and self-improvement. This involves often more flexibility on the part of the coach and than for the coachee. What do they need to advance, learn, grow, and improve? That’s our job as coaches, to first figure that out, and then to provide it.