Don’t Bother Coaching When

Now for a terrible confession that will make all of the ‘C” (detail) people think less of me.  This will help you understand that sometimes you don’t bother coaching.  I failed normal stream grade 10 math that all of the other kids took.  I remember vividly that I got an asterisk on my report card in the math column.  I approached the teacher and asked, “Is this good?”

I had a vague idea that despite my dismal test scores, maybe I was a prodigy and scored off the scale, like an Einstein.  Maybe I was too smart for simple math!  Maybe only the higher concepts could interest a person of my intellect! Without looking up, he simply said, “no.”

So, I redid grade 10 math, but this time in the dumb-person class.  Which I also failed.  Finally, my brilliant PhD brother personally tutored me through ‘fun with numbers’ math which I passed by a whisker.

When your tutor has to resort to “Look at the pretty yellow balloon Trevor!  What number does that remind you of?” you know you’re likely not gifted in this area.  My math woes could have derailed my life and career, but somehow, I figured it out.  Even a blind squirrel finds some nuts.

I was not worth coaching in this area.  Sometimes you’re going to come across people who aren’t worth your time coaching too.  Although you may want them to win, you need to move on and find someone else to coach when:

They’re in the wrong job

Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith gives a great suggestion to determine who these people are.  Just ask, “If we shut down the company (or your department) today, would you be relieved, surprised, or sad?”

When someone says ‘relieved,’ you know they’re probably in the wrong job.  Instead of coaching them to move from dismal to mediocre, find them a better seat in the company.  Don’t bother coaching.  They will thank you.

They don’t believe they are the problem

When a person believes that the problems are about everything but them, you know it’s all bad.  You hear responses like this:

  • You can’t hire any good people these days
  • My team need coaching, but I’m good
  • I always get bad luck with people around me

A basic truth about life is that your relationships are just a reflection of you personally.  If you’re unskilled at building team, you’re going to be surrounded by a weak team obviously.

If you misdiagnose your problems as bad luck, or poor circumstances, you slot yourself in permanent victim mode.  And a victim only has the power to feel outraged and unhappy.  Instead, ask yourself which part of the situation you need to own, and get to work on making it better.

If someone believes that fixing their problems isn’t their responsibility, don’t bother coaching.  Move on.

They’re forced into coaching and don’t really want to change

Here’s a basic principle of life that, once you fully believe and embrace, will set you free:

You can’t make a grown-up do something they don’t want to do

If you want an employee to change and they don’t really buy it, it will never work.

Same goes for a spouse, a child, a friend, or a family member.  You can’t change anybody.  You can’t rescue anybody.  You can help and assist and be there for them.  But you can’t rescue anyone.  It isn’t your job.  Let it go.  Don’t bother coaching someone who doesn’t want to be coached.

A person persuaded against their will is of the same opinion still.

So, find a person who is in the right role and is excited to move forward, and pour your time and energy into them.  Your coaching will make a huge difference.

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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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