How Coaching Performance Kills Coaching

May 15, 2017 by John Andrew Williams

How Coaching Performance Kills Coaching

“Why does my client seem so tense?”

“Why won’t my client go very deep in our sessions?”

“What made that prospective client not bite?”

These questions, and others like them, come up very often when working with new coaches. There are always challenging parts to starting in a new career field, but the idea that coaching performance can kill coaching conversations can be hard for a new coach to recognize.

Clients sense fear. They sense the need of a coach to perform. They sense the tension a coach feels when things don’t go exactly as planned.

This reality leads to the greatest paradox of coaching:

In order to better perform as a coach, you have to stop caring about your great coaching performance.

Here are 3 suggestions for decreasing your focus on your own coaching performance:

  1. When a question fails, recognize it with the client: “Wow, that question failed gloriously!” – This makes the performance focus on the coaching rather than on you as a coach. You can both enjoy the fact that sometimes a conversation doesn’t go as planned, and that failure in a conversation is safe for you and for them as a client.
  2. When you are not sure what to ask, don’t apologize for silence: This seems to contradict the previous point, but it accomplishes the same goal. new coaches tend to jump to their next question way too fast, making a conversation feel a bit manic and unsafe. Silence is gold in coaching conversations. Your ability to listen well makes pausing necessary. While a client speaks, you are tracking with them keeping track of any keywords they say, but not over-analyzing. Once they are done speaking, then you begin formulating your next question. This takes time – your time, and their time. While you consider your next question they further consider their own words. Pacing yourself well, then, offers more value for the client while making it clear that thinking is a safe activity for a coaching conversation.
  3. Trust the process to add value, not you: Now we are definitely getting into some fluffy-nonsense…right? As corporate as this point sounds, it is one of the most foundational principles of great coaching. The coach is not an expert that the client can rely on, but an expert in facilitating a process that the client can rely on to add value. Even if we don’t get to cover everything we want in a call, offering coaching will add value for our clients. Believe it, and the client will feel that belief, relax in the conversation and be able to open up to a greater degree which, funnily enough, creates even more value in a session.

Check out the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies Comparison Table. You can find the information on over-performing under Competency #3 “Trust and Intimacy".

Let's stay connected image

Let's stay connected

Follow us

Facebook linkInstagram linkTwitter linkYoutube linkPinterest LinkLinkedin link


To provide life coach training that changes lives, launches careers, and promotes human flourishing.

Logo footer

PO Box 2021

Hood River, Oregon 97031

NBHWClogo logoACTP logo