Chapter 9 Wrapping Up

Pitfalls to Avoid for a Successful Life Coaching

Although it is normal to make mistakes. There are several mistakes you should work hard to ensure that you do not make because they can be very damaging to your clients, to yourself, or to your business. Mistakes can actually be a great way to learn new skills and learn to do things a new way. But it’s important to ensure that you don’t make some of these key mistakes as they can be very serious, yet you may not recognize them in your practice unless you think about them beforehand. Being aware of them will allow you to avoid making these mistakes in your coaching career. Although some of these issues have been discussed elsewhere in the course they are placed here to put a spotlight on what you can do to ensure best practices.


  • Diagnosing Mental Health Issues

Often clients will come in and begin coaching with you and you will discover after coaching has begun that the client has a diagnosable mental health issue. It’s important to never try to diagnose any mental health issues coaches are not qualified to fill that role. But it’s also important to recognize that it’s important to refer any client out to a licensed mental health provider if you suspect your client may be suffering from a mental health issue.

  • Self-Focus

Coaching should never be focused on you. Coaching should always be focused on your clients and their issues. It can be easy to slip into the habit of talking about your issues with your client when they have similar issues. But this is the hallmark of an inexperienced and ineffective coach. When a coach can be completely present with and focused on the client they are demonstrating their commitment to their client and their professionalism as a coach. 

  • Assuming

Coaches should never make assumptions about their clients. They should never believe that they know more about their clients than their clients know about themselves. The client is the expert on their own life and it’s essential to respect their knowledge and authority. Furthermore, you should never jump to conclusions when working with clients. This includes assuming that you understand what they’re talking about, their beliefs, their views, their perceptions, their feelings, strengths, and values when you may only have a rudimentary understanding. But it also includes jumping to conclusions about what you think the proper course of action for a client would be.

  • Coaching the Uncoachable

This is one of the reasons that the discovery sessions are so essential to creating a lasting and effective coaching relationship. During the discovery session you will be able to explore with your client whether they are coachable and feel motivated to move toward their goals or whether they believe you should be doing the work to make them reach their goals. The main thing about people who are “uncoachable” is that they’re just not ready for change or ready to be coached, even if they’ve approached you for help with their issues.

  • Giving orders

Many coaches make this mistake and believe that they can tell their client what they should be doing. However, this is a major mistake in coaching. Coaches should never tell their cleints what to do, give them orders, or tell them how they should live their life. Coaching is a process of co-creation, which means that the client’s opinions and voice is just as important as that of the coach.

  • Violating Confidentiality

Breaking confidentiality for any reason other than the client is a threat to themselves or others is breaking their trust in you and is violating your professional ethics. There can also be legal ramifications for violating confidentiality. So be sure to always keep client information private and secure.

  • Using Jargon

Jargon are technical words that are just used in the world of coaching. They are words that a client may not understand naturally on their own. So they should not be sued as they may just confuse clients and make them feel inferior or as though they don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead, you should discuss things in simple terms that your clients can understand so that they’re able to easily integrate that knowledge into their life.

  • Being Judgmental

Judging clients  is a critical mistake in coaching. When you judge a client you lose their trust and often their respect. Judging clients isn’t always expressed in words. It can also be expressed in your tone of voice. If you find that you’re judging a particular client than you should consider whether that client would be better off working with another coach and possibly refer them to one.

  • Avoiding Sensitive topics

Coaching is a place where clients come to discuss things that they may not be safe discussing in other areas of their life. When coaches avoid these topics it makes their clients uncomfortable and reveals their inexperience as a coach. Even taboo topics such as sex may need to be talked about in session if they are relevant to the client’s issues. Clients cannot trust a coach and be comfortable exploring their most sensitive issues if the coach is uncomfortable or avoidant of certain topics. If there are certain topics which you know that you will never be okay discussing then it’s probably wise that you pick a coaching niche which would not delve into that particular area.

  • Being Insensitive

It’s important to be sensitive to your clients issues. When clients are suffering or struggling being insensitive to their needs can cause the client to lose trust in you and to feel as though you don’t understand them. So it’s important to be sensitive to your client, to their emotions, and to the struggles that they’re dealing with.

  • Being Unclear

Being unclear can water down your message as a coach and can also make your client confused. This is especially so when you fail to give clear instructions to our clients when giving homework. When clarity isn’t achieved clients may not complete your homework or do what you’ve talked about in session. So it’s essential to be crystal clear in all of your communications with your clients.

  • Pushing The Client Too Far

It’s important to not be too hard on your clients, even when they’re not making progress toward their goals. A coach should be supportive and acknowledge each client’s unique reality. So when you push your clients too long that can actually lead your clients to experience resentment toward you as the coach, become paralyzed and not do anything to work toward their goals, or even quit coaching. These things make it even less likely that they’ll reach their goals. Understand that each client will do what they can when they can and that there’s a difference between being “hard on” your client and keeping them accountable for their goals.

  • Telling The Client They’re Wrong

When you tell a client that they’re wrong you’re essentially negating their reality. You’re saying that you know more about them and their circumstances than they do. Each client is unique and so is their perspective and world view. So it’s important to view each client that way and instead of saying “you’re wrong” ask instead if you could suggest an alternative perspective to help them see things differently.

  • Working The Same Way With All Clients

As we’ve discussed, not all clients are the same. Clients are unique in how they show up to coaching and so their needs will also be unique. So it will be impossible to work with each client the same way. And in fact, if you’re working the same way with each of your clients you’re not respecting their uniqueness and the fact that coaching is a dynamic practice where you must react to and give personalized responses to each and every client.

  • Giving Advice

Giving advice is never a good idea as a coach. It’s important for coaches to reocnigze that they should be making “suggestions” or “alternative perspectives” rather than advice. Advice falls in line with a previous item in this list, giving orders, as advice is usually received as the client being told what to do.

  • Projecting Personal Beliefs Onto The Client

Since clients are unique you must respect their unique beliefs and perspectives. A piece of this is not projecting your own beliefs onto the client. So if a client is doing something that goes against your beliefs you should explore what their beliefs are so that you can gain more clarity on how they feel about the situation. Usually, if things aren’t a problem for the client, then they don’t need to be addressed in coaching.

Chapter Review Questions

Descriptive Questions

  • What do you think are the three most important coaching mistakes?

Multiple Choice Questions

1. Which of the following is a very serious coaching mistake?

  1. Diagnosing psychological conditions
  2. Asking questions
  3. Holding clients accountable
  4. Expecting your clients to meet their goals

Answer Key: