10 Reasons Clients Don’t Reach Their Goals

For new coaches, it is frustrating when clients aren’t making the progress expected of them. Whenever clients aren’t successful, there are many things to explore. However, this exploration won’t happen if you forget to follow up on their actions. A rookie mistake is taking time to make the plan but neglecting to check back in with the client to see how the plan went.

If your client isn’t making progress, check the following:

  1. Was the proposed action too big?

Sometimes, the steps seemed reasonable in the planning stage, but they became overwhelming in the execution state. If the steps are too big, clients can become paralyzed. They may not know where to begin.

Some questions to ask might be:

  • Do you know where to start?
  • Does this all seem a bit overwhelming?
  • What would your first step be? Then what? What next? Etc.
  1. Did the client not want what he or she said they did?

There are several reasons why clients hide what they really want: they may not trust you yet, they may not think they can get what they want, they may think you’ll find them foolish or crazy, and they may fear being told they can’t have what they want.

When a client has these thoughts and a coach is asking what they want, the client may just toss out a random answer to steer the conversation away from the uncomfortable.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Is this what you really want?
  • Are you sure this is what you really want?
  1. Did they make a half-hearted commitment?

Have you ever said you would do something despite knowing you probably wouldn’t follow through? People do this a lot; it’s a way of taking the pressure off. In an attempt to end the questioning of a coaching session, a person might make a commitment they don’t intend to keep.

Here are some questions you can ask: 

  • Are you really serious about doing this?
  • Do you really want this?
  1. Have the client’s wants and priorities shifted? 

Clients may start out wanting one thing, but while putting in the work, they could realize they actually want something else. Information and opportunities can change a person’s priorities.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Is this what you still want or do you want something else now?
  • Has something happened to change your focus?
  1. Did he or she just tell you what you wanted to hear?

Some clients can be people-pleasers attempting to glean what you think is the “right” answer. They are seeking your approval and working to avoid conflict. Their desire for you to like and approve of them can supersede any of the other goals they may have for themselves. The best way to counteract this is to remain objectively neutral and not give away what you believe is the “right” answer.

You might ask this question:

  • Is this really something that’s important to you, or do you simply think this is what I want you to do/what I think is best?
  1. Was the client just giving the socially-acceptable answer or trying to please someone else?

Clients could have people in their lives who believe they have a problem and “force” them into getting help. The client isn’t voluntarily seeking help and they may not believe a problem exists. In these situations, there is almost always a company line. There is a socially-acceptable answer.

When a company hires you to do executive coaching with their employees, there will be company expectations and desired outcomes. Your client will know what the company wants so he or she will likely provide that as an answer. There may be no magic question you could ask to uncover the truth since the client’s goal is to deceive you of their actual intent.

You might say something like this:

  • I’m a little surprised to hear you say you really want _________________ since you haven’t made any progress toward that goal in quite some time. Could it be this isn’t actually what you want?
  1. Did the client allow life to get in the way?

It is hard to make changes in one’s life. Sometimes it’s easiest to break the commitments we make with ourselves. People can manufacture all kinds of excuses for not honoring their commitments.

Here are some good questions for this person:

  • Just how important is this to you?
  • What will happen if you do it?
  • What’s the risk if you don’t?
  1. Did a legitimate emergency prevent them from being successful?

Sometimes seriously legitimate tragedies overtake our lives and interrupt our success. Deaths, illnesses, and natural disasters come to mind. Some things are simply legitimate, overwhelming, and unavoidable.

Here’s a question you can ask in this situation:

  • Are you ready to refocus your energy on your plan?

Honor your client’s answer and adjust the plan to meet the special needs of your client’s reality.

  1. Is there something else they want that’s getting in the way?

It’s possible clients fail to reach success due to wanting more than what’s been focused on during the planning session. Maybe your client wants to lose weight while eating whatever he or she wants. Perhaps he wants to set a boundary with a friend but also wants to maintain the relationship. Sometimes people want to build their savings but also want to go on vacation.

Here are some possible questions:

  • Can you do both?
  • If not, which is your priority at this time?
  1. Is there something important they would have to give up in order to get what they want?

Sometimes subconscious sabotage prevents a person from reaching their goals. This usually is in the form of long-term, entrenched beliefs that has lived in the background of a person’s life.

Here are some possible questions for this situation:

  • What would you have to give up to get what you want?
  • Is there any way you can see to have both? What would that look like?
  • If you can’t have both (a true dilemma), then which is more important?
  • Are you willing to give up what you want right this minute for the long-term gain of what you really want for your future?

As the coach, it is your job to follow up. Let your clients know you care about their progress. Support them through the tough times and provide accountability when they are being complacent. Part of following up involves assessing whether the initial goal is still what the client wants.

If you are interested in becoming a coach and this questioning process is a good fit for you, then consider registering for our Board Certified Coach (BCC) upcoming coaching program here:

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