In theory, yes! If something is going seriously wrong with the coaching relationship, or if the coach has a serious personal matter come up that means they can’t fulfill their engagement with you, then it’s always possible to start with a new coach. The most important thing is that you get the support you need to carry through with your goals and development. However outside of these situations, it’s generally not advisable to change coaches once you’re underway with coaching. Here’s a few instances when you should seriously consider requesting a change of coach, and why in most cases it’s advisable to persevere.
Here’s a few reasons why you might be thinking a coaching relationship is off the rails:
- You don’t feel a sense of rapport with your coach
- You’re not feeling challenged, or pushed to grow
- You don’t see a lot of follow up or ‘homework’ from your coach
- You don’t feel like they understand you or your industry.
Firstly - all of those things are important. You should be tapping into your sense of how the coaching relationship is progressing, and you certainly should have high expectations of your development journey. However if you’ve taken the time to do a chemistry meeting, to screen and vet your coach, then you should ask yourself “what was it that I saw back then that’s missing now?”. It’s always worth reflecting, and opening a dialogue with your coach directly about how the engagement is working, before you make any big decisions.
Here’s what that might sound like:
“We’re XX sessions into this engagement now, and I’m not getting the sense I’m progressing. What do you think?”
“I feel I can benefit from some more pressure or tension from this relationship - I’m really looking for you to push me outside my comfort zone. Can you work with me on this?”
“I’m expecting to work on my career and development outside of our conversations. What take-home work should I be doing after each of our sessions to keep the learning alive?”
“I have a sense there’s a disconnect between us on some critical aspects of my role and work. I’d really like to fill you in, as I feel it will put you in a better position to help me. Are you happy to do that?”
In each case, you’re being proactive and assertive, to get the result you want. This is your coaching, and you have the most to gain or lose from your coaching, so it’s very important that you raise your voice and shape the coaching relationship that you want. Sometimes your coach is gauging your readiness and appetite for challenge, and they might be misreading the signals. It’s their job to read you, but also your job to advocate for your own needs.
Beyond that, it’s important to reflect on what you ARE learning.
- Noticing friction or frustration with your coach? This can be a good signal - they’re pressing your buttons and getting right to the heart of what triggers and troubles you. Don’t be afraid of discomfort (although outright conflict is off course off the table, and if you feel judged or belittled - there’s no space for that in coaching, and fortunately we’ve never heard it happen). If your coach is rubbing you the wrong way, stop and think: what is it about this person that’s ticking me off, and what can I learn from that?
- Expecting more contact in between sessions? Depending on the arrangement you have, your coach might not be being compensated for ‘on demand’ calls and texts and emails in between sessions, beyond reminders and encouragement and booking future time slots. They’re really paid for the time spent with you face to face, and the prep and debrief time they spend alone, working on your case to document their approach and reflect on the progress. For a 1 hour session with you, they probably spend the same amount on prep and debrief. It’s not their job to send you meeting minutes or long notes, however coaches will often email resources relevant to your case. If you’re wanting more contact, raise this, but you might need to renegotiate.
- Wanting more OR less structure to your sessions? If you’re a really structured thinker, then it can feel uncomfortable if your coach lets the discussion emerge and flow, lead by you. Likewise, if you’re a divergent, less structured thinker and your coach imposes clear agendas and drives to resolve each topic of discussion, you might feel allergic! In both cases 1) voice out to them how you’re feeling and 2) reflect on your opportunity to learn and experience a new style. This might be a purposeful approach made on behalf of your coach, to unlock some of your alter-potential. Sometimes using the coaching space to step out of our usual style and ‘try on’ different ways of working. Your coach will accept your feedback, and you should also be willing to experiment.
There are a few things that are absolute no-go zones when it comes to coaching. Your coach should never:
- Break your confidentiality, except in cases where they believe you may harm yourself or others. This means they shouldn’t share with your boss or HR (or anyone else!) what you’re sharing with them, except with your express permission, and ideally with you present.
- Force you to discuss things you don’t want to. This means if there’s anything personal beyond work, or from your family or history that you don’t wish to share, then don’t.
- Enter a personal relationship with you, beyond the coaching engagement. This means that while you might be on affable and friendly terms with your coach, it goes beyond their code of conduct you meet you socially, or get involved romantically.
- Encourage you to share business information that might lead to insider trading or any other business decisions.
If you’re ever not sure if your coach has crossed a boundary, speak with your HR leader for counsel. These situations are VERY rare, but if it does happen, don’t hesitate to take advice on how to handle the situation.
BOLDLY is a global marketplace of coaches, focused on screening and vetting the highest quality coaches to ensure once you make your match, it sticks! Reach out to us to discuss: firstname.lastname@example.org