A coaching engagement can be a transformative experience for those seeking personal and professional development, but not every coaching client will see the return on investment they were seeking when they signed on with their coach. Understanding the reasons behind underwhelming coaching outcomes can shed light on the potential pitfalls clients may encounter during their coaching journey, allowing both coaches and clients to consider the best ways to avoid them.
Below, 17 Forbes Coaches Council members explore factors that contribute to how a client perceives ROI at the end of a coaching engagement, providing valuable insights on how clients and coaches can avoid missteps from the outset of their partnership.
In my experience, not fully understanding what coaching is and having unrealistic expectations and resistance to change might prevent clients from seeing the ROI from a coaching process. Discovery and intake sessions are key to getting clarity on both sides and planting seeds for an impactful coaching relationship. Is the client ready to commit, transform and show up? Are the coach and client a good match? - Silvia Vernaschi, The Mind Bliss Coaching
In my experience, the No.1 reason for not seeing ROI is not having clear goals and benchmarking. As with any endeavor, coaching begins with a clear goal and mapped milestones. In this type of relationship, I believe having a comprehensive intake process with defined goals and scheduled review sessions ensures progress toward these goals, leading to clients not just meeting, but exceeding their goals and desired ROI. - Supriya Venkatesan, Samskara.co
The primary factor leading to a lack of ROI for coaching clients is their inadequate commitment and failure to follow through. Active participation and engagement are essential for progressing and attaining goals through coaching. When clients are not fully dedicated or neglect to take action based on the coaching guidance, it impedes their ability to witness tangible outcomes. - Toliver Rinehart, Rinehart Company Inc
The No. 1 reason for coaching clients failing to see ROI is a lack of alignment between the coach and the client. Clear, upfront goals and expectations within the coaching process are crucial. Ongoing discussions about progress and making necessary adjustments are vital to ensure objectives are met. Involve other parties, such as a boss or human resources representative, at various checkpoints for added accountability. - Brian Houp, ReZone Coaching
When clients believe coaching is intended to tell them what to do and to give them answers, they may be disappointed. Explaining that coaching is an opportunity to elevate the quality of their problem-solving skills can help set expectations. For example, my clients receive a unique decision-making framework, but they know the real work is in applying it to how they think and what they do. - Asia Bribiesca-Hedin, Bridgewell Professional Services
Clients may fail to see the ROI of coaching if they go into it believing that change isn’t possible for them. Social and industrial-organizational psychologists have made great strides in the last few decades to understand how success-oriented mindsets determine performance and drive success. To achieve results, I encourage clients to hold the mindset that positive results are inevitable. - Amy Wong, Always On Purpose
HR programs are notorious for not being able to demonstrate ROI, and the business can often think of important HR work as “fluff” as a result. It is therefore not on the client to see the ROI; it is on the coaching practice to demonstrate the ROI using clear indicators of assessment. - Nishika de Rosairo, HumanQ Inc
The No. 1 reason a coaching client may fail to see the ROI in my coaching practice is that they benefit from body doubling and being held accountable. They default to their natural behaviors once I remove my energy, presence and consistency in communicating expectations. They are still building personal integrity to get it done by themselves, and that responsibility is heavy for many. - Ariel McGrew, Tactful Disruption®
The No. 1 reason a coaching client might fail to see the ROI is if an agreement is not established up front regarding the success of the coaching. If success is not well-defined, there can be no commitment to action that sees results. The client defines success, and the coach confirms what is most important for the client. The agreement promotes commitment to action and ROI. - Karen Tracy, Dr. Karen A Tracy.
If clients don’t practice what they learn, they may not realize the full ROI of coaching. Sometimes clients ask if they can “just read a book” to help them. I tell them that there are plenty of resources, but that coaching is like swimming. You can read all the books you want, and know all of the mechanics and techniques, but unless you get in the water, you’ll never actually be good at it. - Monisha Toteja, Dynamic Speaking
Coaching is an investment, and to get the most from that investment, clients have to be willing to take a hard look at themselves: their goals, behavior, language, mindset and values. Done well, it’s rewarding (and not easy) work. Clients who leverage their coach as a trusted advisor and are willing to co-create a different future and take action to build that future see the ROI. - Kathleen Woodhouse, Nova Leadership
Carol Dweck is known for her concept of a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset. A client adopting a fixed mindset operates from a mental assumption that growth and learning are limited. Such clients will struggle to find ROI, as they will resist the process unconsciously. By setting smaller tangible goals, then working collaboratively toward them and consistently reflecting on progress, they can begin to grow. - Dr. Ron N Hurst, Developing Leaders
Sometimes, potential clients fail to see the ROI of coaching because they haven’t calculated the cost of inaction. Stagnation will cost them time, energy, growth and incalculable amounts of undue stress. Today’s inaction leads to tomorrow’s uncertainty, and the result is akin to going backward while their competitors move forward. Helping a client clarify what this looks like for them is essential. - Dr. Tajuana Ross, drtajuanaross.com
Some clients end up not wanting to do the work, so I often shift my approach with them. In this case, I provide more hand-holding and check-ins to hold them accountable. Not all clients should be treated equally. Similar to management, you will have high performers and ones who are not as driven. It’s important for coaches to have the ability to dial up or down based on clients’ needs. - Carmelina Piedra, CareerCoachingPro
Clients fail to see the ROI of coaching when they expect the coach to do all of the work. That is simply not how coaching works. We are very clear on the work expected of the client in order to get their desired results. You avoid the client failing to see the ROI by first helping them identify their goals, then providing a road map and tools that hold them accountable for achieving them. - Ryan Stewman, Break Free Academy
The No.1 reason why a client might fail to see the ROI on their program? It’s you, not them. It’s you, their coach, who hasn’t had them think the ROI through clearly enough. And it’s you, again, assuming that what they come up with is the same as what their leader would come up with. It’s not the client who can avoid this; it’s up to you, as the coach, to make sure you don’t avoid this. - Jay Steven Levin, WinThinking
A client may question the ROI of coaching due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what coaching is and how it works. One of the first things I do with a client is describe the coaching process and distinguish it from practices such as consulting and mentoring. Coaching does not provide quick fixes; the ROI comes from developing competencies and mindset shifts that are meaningful and sustainable. - Peter Accettura, Accettura Consulting.