Coaching Insights #5 Why doing more creates less value

As a coach do you ever find yourself finishing a coaching session feeling tired and weary? Like your life force has drained away from you, and all you long for is to curl up under a blanket with a warm drink and a good book for a few hours?

It happens sometimes doesn’t it?  I know most of your coaching sessions leave you (and your clients) feeling invigorated, upbeat, openhearted and joyful, but from time to time it’s not that way.  Instead it can feel like the conversation was stuck, full of blind alleys leading nowhere.  It can seem like hard work and sometimes it’s a relief when you finish.


Trying too hard

On of my teachers says, as someone who serves others it’s likely you will always do too much in beginning. Even though I have worked with people for over ten years, I still consider myself to be at the beginning.  Each phase of my work presents me with a chance to step back, re-evaluate and learn more.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on a verse from Stephen Philbrink’s poem, ‘A Blessing’ where he writes,

Don’t try so hard.
Sometimes it falls,
A flake at a time,
Into your life while you’re asleep.

In a service industry like coaching it can be a trick of the mind to believe that the amount of effort made by the coach directly equates to client satisfaction. This false trap can mean as a coach you can work very hard to achieve results with your clients, but often feel like you’re going nowhere together.

There are many reasons for trying too hard with your clients. Some are linked to the inner world:

  • striving for a good result
  • believing you need to prove yourself
  • thinking you’re a fraud
  • thinking effort equals good value
  • wanting to do what’s best for your clients

and some are linked to the dynamics between you and your client who may be:

    • feeling stuck, unsure, lost and confused
    • reluctant to face the reality about a situation
    • abdicating from their coaching process (or their life!)
    • desiring that you rescue or save them
    • caught in a fantasy (read this recent post about how to coach a client stuck in fantasy)


Why doing more creates less value

I know that trying hard seems like the right thing to do in all of these situtations.  However, doing too much in your coaching sessions isn’t best for you or your clients.

I know it feels like you’re helping, but here’s the difficult truth…

The more involvement you have, the more you interfere with your client’s own process.

The more you do, the less their thoughts, stories, beliefs, understanding, truth, fears and upset can surface. Trying too hard prevents your clients from having the experience that is best for them.


Signs you’re trying too hard

So what does trying too hard look and sound like?

It’s likely you are trying too hard if you:

  • Start your session with a pre-prepared agenda
  • Follow a particular model or process
  • Have desired place you want to get your client by the end of a session
  • Set clear objectives with your client (how do you know where the coaching will end up?)
  • Are thinking hard about which tool you should use next
  • Find yourself talking more than your client
  • If you hear yourself saying ‘you should try xx’ or ‘you need to do yy’

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking that you do some of these things in your coaching sessions.  I understand many of these points, such as following a model or setting objectives, will have been taught as best practise in your coach training.  The thing to remember is that any or a combination of these points means that you are interfering with your client’s own process.  It’s less likely you were taught how not to do that.


The antidote to trying too hard

The direct opposite of trying too hard, or caring for your clients would be disengagement and apathy. As a coach that’s not you want to practice!

The antidote to trying too hard is what is called ‘Client Containment’.

Instead of efforting, your role is to create a contained and sacred space for your clients. Once you have created this container, your role is to then show up for your clients in an engaged and present way. Letting them lead their own process, following them where they wish to go.

There are some simple ways you can create Client Containment. If you would like to learn more about Client Containment, watch out for a free, four-part coaching course launching on Tuesday 16th February.

Client containment is likely to be a different way to the way you have been taught.

I get it, it’s taken some time for me to learn this as well, but it has radically changed how I approach my client work. It’s been so crucial to enabling me to work for longer and deeper with my clients, that I want to share what I learned with you in a free, four-part course.

The course starts on Tuesday 16th February, add your details below to register now


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In the meantime relax, there’s no need to try so hard.

With love,




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