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The Truth Why Traditional Coaching Does Not Work

being yourself connection courage foundation leadership personal development personal leadership Feb 17, 2019

Right – buckle up….this is going to be a very open and honest article  on something that’s been on my mind for a while.

The coaching industry is booming. And for good reasons.

NEVER before there were so many people lost, confused, overworked and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work (or the opposite…and they are bored….yep – have seen that indeed), never was life so exhausting as it is now.

In my corporate life I personally loathed coaches and consultants (who are clearly not the same – so don’t confuse them), as I had the impression that they were simply overpaid so-called experts telling us what we know already, just packaging it in a plethora of fluffy words and terms.

Admittedly I only worked with a coach once during that time – and that was when I lost a job and the employer paid for some outplacement coaching. In a way that was helpful, still it could not really heal the wounds the situation had created.

By now you know – I’m rather critical towards this profession.

Hang on – isn’t she a coach herself, you might think now.

Yes and no. I call myself a Personal Leadership Activator. And the reason being that I’m NOT a traditional coach, as I’ve seen those failing. Quite often in fact.

And there are clear reasons for that, which I’m coming to in a second.

Certifications are over-rated

Coaching does not necessarily require a certificate. Basically, everybody can call themselves coaches. AND THAT IS A GOOD THING!

Why is that?

Well, certifications do not necessarily produce good coaches. As there is so much more required than just a process. So, I’m all for it that people who develop or have a process that has proven to work, can go and coach people all their wisdom and/or accompany them on their journey.

To make that very clear: I know a number of coaches and know that many of them do fantastic work.

And not knowing anything else, I always believed the common things which are known about coaching. Until I knew better and found a method which turned my views upside down.

I know that it’s time to get rid of some common and even popular beliefs in this area and to take a hard and honest look at what often goes wrong:

 7 Reasons WHY traditional coaching does not work 

1. Starting at the wrong end

First and foremost, most coaching techniques leave out the most important part: the deep dive into personal leadership or mastery. The making sure that the clients in fact know themselves, their pattern and beliefs, uncover all the hidden stuff AND make sure that the client has a solid connection with and high awareness of him/herself.

This is not done with some questionnaires or a personality test. They have their place, hence merely scratch the surface of what is really going on.

Helping the client to connect with their deepest fears, hopes, dreams and truths is what creates a foundation that we can build up upon. Everything else falls into the category of no 2. And I tell you a secret: talking does not help to get there.

2. Band-aids instead of profound transformation

No 1 often results into a lot of coaching techniques, tools and tricks being a total waste of time, as they are merely band-aids. Which have a tendency to fade into memory. Using techniques without a solid foundation might create some short-term results but will never be sustainable. How many trainings have you attended, and the tools are long forgotten? Yep, that’s what I mean. 

By the way, I found that most tools and techniques in fact start working so much better when they are building on top of the foundation - just saying.

3. Far too theoretical 

This has 2 aspects:

a. Coaches who have never really worked in the environment they are coaching people in tend to have a crooked or idealized picture of the real-life situations.

Meaning, if you hire a relationship coach, who’s never lived with someone, this might become rather tricky. If you’re hiring a coach for work related issues with zero work experience in the respective area (corporate or other organisations) beware, that they might have tons of theoretical knowledge (having worked with other companies), but they have never seen the playing field from your side of the table.

If we were never exposed to any of those situations and felt the utter frustration, anger or desperation resulting from it, it’s hard and sometimes impossible to offer the right help – as much as we might want it.

b. Whatever is being taught is being put into words. Maybe even in role-play. That does not reflect the REAL feelings coming up with REAL-LIFE situations. It does simply not relate to the life and the actual feelings coming up that the painful situation creates. And when the knowledge got to be applied – it simply fails, as emotions take over.

Questions like “HOW do those wonderful tips and tools really work in REAL life?”, “WHAT do I do when it does not work and how do I deal with it then?”, are not addressed on the level where they belong.

4. Complicated language and processes - keep it bloody simple!

I have seen reports from coaches which made my toenails curl. A lot of blah-blah spiked with modern psychology buzz words (empower, leadership, recognition…you name it) literally saying NOTHING. Basically making things much more complex than they are. Admittedly humans ARE complex – the art though is to cut through exactly that and make it simple. To get to the basics. To prepare the ground before throwing a whole load of seeds on it. Cause guess what: they won’t grow.  (see point 1)

5. Traditional coaching takes forever. Sometimes with such tiny results that they are hardly visible. That has many reasons:

a. We simply believe that change takes forever, and then it does. Ever heard that faith can move mountains? Yep – whatever we believe is STRONG. And I can already hear you cry out: but it DOES!!! I have seen it many times. Exactly - whatever we believe, we will find proof for. That’s called self-fulfilling prophecy, also a psychological term and bloody spot on. Whatever we believe will become the truth – and the other way around.

b. No foundation: see point 1. I can’t stress it enough. Without a friggin’ foundation nothing can fall on fertile ground. And the foundation is REALLY knowing ourselves and being connected. Knowing what kind of power we actually have and how to tap into it.

c. Prescribed sessions: I NEVER work with anyone who I know has not bought into the process. And I know this latest in the first session – often already in the information call beforehand. And if I see it happen, I close my book and stop the I’m not wasting my time nor anybody else’s. That is simply being respectful. Why would I push anything on anybody who’s not ready for it? So please, dear bosses – don’t MAKE anyone going through coaching, if they are not prepared to do so. You can save a lot of money. And nerves. And dear coaches: STOP this BS. It will only harm your reputation, if you’re a good one.

d. Some coaches simply don’t know how to cut to the chase or through the shit. So they circle forever around the REAL issue without seeing or touching it. No wonder there is little progress.

e. Getting lost in technicalities or methods: Humans are unique. So following a script book may be less than helpful. Particularly if your method is not so generic that it really hits the bull’s eye every time.

f. Too theoretical. Lots of coaches talk. And talk. And have an excellent knowledge of all the theories. Compassion and listening is more important than lecturing. We learn through experience, NOT through “being told”.

The truth is that the foundation and cutting through the crap can be achieved in as little as 3 intensive sessions, which I have seen working with my clients time and time again. The only prerequisite: The client is ready to get him/herself into the process, trusts the coach and the parties involved know the ingredients of how to do that. 

6. Emotions are discussed

…and not felt. Right, one of my favourite topics and one of the most sensitive one in the business environment: Emotions, and how do we deal with those buggers. We can talk about emotions all day long and how to handle them – this is the same as describing sex and explaining how it feels. NOT THE FUCKING SAME, AS DOING IT? (pun intended)


Emotions have got to be felt, processed, shifted. And that can’t be done with words alone.

7. Business and spirituality are on two different planets

I know, I know, now it REALLY becomes uncomfortable. Do yourself a favour and continue reading.

And maybe that gives you some perspective: I’ve been in business for the last 30 years. I’m known to be down to earth, pragmatic and solution and success oriented. And still  - or maybe because of it – I simply KNOW that we have to look beyond what we’ve done so far.

Most coaches I know  - even the life coaches in the business environment – just about talk about enough sleep, stress relief and maybe – if they are really brave – about mindfulness. And even then a lot of business people cringe or shy away from the latter.

Right – let’s once and for all get rid of this belief that we’re different people in business and privately. So, no amount of hiding away from our emotions, our hopes and fears in our life will make anything better. Some only do that in their business life – pretending, building up nice facades – and some even hide from themselves in their private life.

If we as coaches REALLY want to help shift people’s lives, go deep. To the heart and soul.

Spirituality is not religion. It is the deep knowledge that we are all connected on a level science can only explain marginally. It is the wisdom to know that the biggest power to shift my life is inside of me – and not anywhere else to be found.

So, let’s be courageous and help the people we work with to look inside and connect. And that does not happen in our heads. Or with our intellect.


I know that this is controversial. I know that I probably pissed off some people.

I also know that it’s time to cut to the chase, speak the truth and stop hiding and pretending.

And for coaches to be brave. To go deeper and simply accept that band-aides won’t do the job.

The truth is that everybody who wishes to be aligned with themselves and wants to be able to deal with stress, gossip, back-stabbing or drama in an honest, heartfelt, effective and sustainable way, this can be achieved.


On a profound level.

And playful.

No frills, just truth.

What do you choose?

PS: Here's how transformation can work in 3 sessions. Glad you asked :-). 

©Claudia Hesse

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