Are You One of The Uncoachables?

A friend sent me an article by Marshall Goldsmith that talks about what he calls “lost causes” – in other words, people who can’t be coached. At least not at the moment.

For me, the idea of uncoachable people raises some immediate questions. Is anyone really uncoachable? Shouldn’t a good coach be able to guide the person in a way that helps them discover the roadblocks they themselves are throwing in front of their ability to bring about change? Aren’t coaches supposed to be able to help everyone?

My short answer is “no”. 

Sure it would be great to take on all comers and create miracles in coaching on a daily basis, but sometimes the person just isn’t ready to embrace real change – no matter what they say. And for some there can also be deep scary stuff being triggered that is best left to the hands of a professional therapist – not something a coach should try to dig into and “fix”. If you are working with a coach who is playing therapist…you might want to think twice about whether you should be entrusting your brain to a Svengali who doesn’t understand boundaries or have control of their own ego. But I do digress.

In his article, Goldsmith goes on to talk about several uncoachable types, but the one I want to talk about today is “They think everyone else is the problem.” 

Take a deep breath if this hits even somewhat close to home. And know you are not alone.

We’ve all had those moments where we see the situation from our POV only – and can list tons of reasons everyone else was the problem. But the key to coachablity – or just plain ability to get over it and get on with it – is being able to catch ourselves when we get caught in the it’s-their-fault-go-round.

Now I am not suggesting you take on the weight of the world and make it all your fault (enough of us do that already), but I think it’s good to know that sometimes, even if you’re absolutely sure it’s them and not you, it helps to stop and try to tell the story from another point of view. And more importantly, it helps to see where you can do something from this point forward to try to change things around for yourself.

I really don’t care if you’re coachable. A lot of successful people probably aren’t. But knowing that everyone else is not the problem is a good start for any career.


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Great article, Ronnie Ann! And hand-in-glove with “everyone else is the problem” is the notion that no one else’s ideas and solutions are as good as yours. I have fallen into this trap myself in the past. Getting out of it started with listening to others’ ideas completely instead of crafting my rebuttal as they spoke. Then if I did try to shoot it down, I would start with what was good about the idea before pointing out any flaws. This eventually led to working together to fix any flaws in basically good ideas—or actually recognizing that the so-called flaws were nonexistent. Now I’m firmly in the “good ideas can come from anywhere” camp and I like being there just fine.

    • I love this personal story, Terry. Great point about more being gained than lost when you start really listening to others – even if at first the words “what a bozo!” come to mind. Many people are so busy crafting their response, they miss not only what is being said but the potential for the other person to then listen to you. People can feel when they are just flapping their gums in the eyes of the other person. Thanks!

  2. Hi Ronnie Ann. Another excellent post that leads to all kinds of interesting questions. Lately I’ve been working with some material from the great Immunity to Change book by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey from the Harvard Leadership Change Group. They address our so called “blindspots,” which become centers for our resistance to change.

    “They think everyone else is the problem” (and I will add everything else) is a big one. And a coach, even a great one, often can’t get past these hardened places within us. This is a good example of one of these “blind spots,” we simply cannot SEE beyond our own perspective. These places are usually deep and you are wise to advise that people who recognize they’ve hit some emotional boulders, seek support beyond the traditional coaching relationship.
    And you are also wise to point out that this particular “blind spot” is a major obstacle to progress – for careers and well beyond.

    • Nice addition to the conversation as always, Louise. I like your point about blind spots – so much communication is lost because of blind spots, filters, and all kinds of brain defense / offense mechanisms. Perspective can indeed be limiting, but is also such a powerful ally when employed with an open mind!

  3. As always this is good and informative. Makes people take an honest look at themselves. I have gotten some realyy great career advice but I have also gotten some really bad advice from coaches and managers. It all helped me learn though. What really hit home was the portion about being in the wrong job. When I was with the union I got to a point where they could not teach me or show me a thing b/c I no longer had enthusiasm for the job or believed in the goals.
    Honest self evaluation is always good. Thanks Ronnie

  4. Thanks, NikkiP. Nicely said. A little honest self-evaluation is something we all could use now and then. 😉

    May the right job find you soon!

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