What Are Common Challenges Faced by a Coach?

What are Common Challenges Faced by a Coach?
July 20, 2022
Table of Contents

Coaching as a profession can be quite rewarding, both in terms of job satisfaction and financial rewards. If you are ready to put in the hard work, chosen a niche for yourself (sales coach, business coach, life coach, etc.), are confident about your skills & knowledge, have a knack for connecting with people, empathizing with their issues, and persevering against setbacks, then the chances are that you will make a success out of your coaching career and enjoy a long, fulfilling professional journey.  

Wanting to help people in overcoming their challenges and guide them on their journey of self-awareness (both in personal & professional capacity) and reach their desired destinations is probably the main reason why you decided to become a coach in the first place. 

But it is not all roses and sunshine – the thorns do prick and thunder does come along the way. As a coach, challenges are present at every step of the coaching process. From core coaching issues to business-related problems, as a coach, you will face numerous obstacles along the way, not just in building a coaching business or in the day-to-day running of it, but also when you think about means of how to scale the same. 

Here are some of the professional challenges, coaching-specific as well as business-specific, that coaches may face. 

5 Common Coaching Challenges

1. Not setting a clear objective & expected outcome for the coaching session 

The main purpose for a client hiring the services of a professional coach is to identify obstacles (personal & professional) to their progress, define a strategic & executable action plan, and execute it to help them reach their goals. This can be achieved as part of a coaching initiative.

Every coaching session needs to have a defined agenda that the coach and client are working towards. Of course, this is open to minor adjustments as per the ongoing conversation, but at least a broad outline of objectives needs to be set. 

In some cases, if the coach is not observant, the session can get away from them. For instance, if the client is struggling with their day-to-day time management, it is not enough to just suggest that they need better time management; the coach needs to be specific and ask questions about the exact issue. Are they struggling with basic scheduling conflicts, or are they not prioritizing things that matter, or is it just that things are slipping away due to sheer laziness, how will they know the session has been successful, what are some of their quantifiable markers of knowing they have gotten better at time management, etc.

Another prickly matter can be agreeing on common ground as far as the session outcome is concerned. Many times, a coach might (not deliberately but unknowingly) try to direct the outcome of the session toward what they think is needed. Instead, it is necessary to take the client’s input about what they are expecting from the session (within the set long-term objectives) so that both the coach and coachee get the desired positive outcome from the session. 

As a coach, it is your job to ensure that the session is directed toward the desired outcome. A total resolution might not be possible, but at least some progress must be aimed at in that general direction.

2. Communication gap between the coach and coachee

Coaching is not like mentoring or counselling where one party advises and the other party follows. It is a mutual collaboration between all stakeholders to achieve transformative results for the client. 

Excellent communication is at the root of a healthy coach-coachee relationship. Asking questions that help you understand your client in-depth (their challenges, ambitions, attitudes, fears, and strengths) is necessary. Communication has to be organic and not forced. The initial interactions have to instill a sense of comfort and security in the client about you as a coach – only then will they open up about their true needs.  A person is more likely to respond well in a safe environment than in an uncomfortable and doubtful space. 

As a coach, it is your job to put your client at ease and encourage them to open up by providing a calm, assured approach through both verbal and non-verbal manners. Getting to know the client is vital to coach them, so focus on the person, get insights into their persona, and aim to establish a trustworthy bond for your coaching to have the necessary impact. 

3. Lack of accountability

As a coach, you have taken the time and effort to truly understand the issues that your client is facing. You can brainstorm and mutually come up with a well-thought-out, strategic action plan and the step-by-step process that is required to achieve desired results. This looks great on paper but how do you ensure that it works on the ground? 

In some cases, a client may be a bit rigid in their stance and not be open to accepting suggested changes. Or in some cases, the client may be a procrastinator and postpone taking action steps assigned for the upcoming session.

So, what does the coach do? Are you, as a coach, meant to be a strict headmaster and issue orders to complete the tasks? Or are you going to be more pragmatic and say that these are experienced and mature individuals you are dealing with and thus, should understand their own responsibilities and their consequences?

Well, the issue of accountability for actions assumes a lot of significance in the outcome of the coaching process. Having a great plan is not enough – it has to be executed well too! Many coaches make the mistake of not assigning accountability to the client right at the outset or they themselves take on the role of the accountability partner or they decide for the client what their accountability should be like.

The workable option lies somewhere in between. Avoid telling your client what their responsibility is and instead, work with them to help them arrive at what accountability looks like to them. Taking on burdens that aren’t yours will only pile up unnecessary pressure on you as a coach. Convey that the accountability for taking action steps rests with the client and is ably supported by the coach. 

4. Spoon-feeding solutions to the client 

Unlike a counsellor whose job is to give advice or find solutions to the problems that their clients face, a coach is only a facilitator who helps the client identify their problems and encourages out-of-the-box thinking to help them find solutions, chart out an action plan, and implement those steps to attain their goals. Basically, the job of the coach is to guide the client get from ‘where they are at present’ to ‘where they want to be in the near future’. 

But it is not the job of a professional coach to give readymade answers to clients for any issues that need sorting. Instead, their main job is to let the client arrive at those answers through the coaching process. The coach should be the channel that steers the client towards finding their way and not an answer key that spoon-feeds all solutions. 

As a coach, if you give direct answers to the client’s challenges, not only are you projecting your insights and perceptions on their problem (which may or may not be right in the first place), but you are also encouraging the client to become co-dependent into expecting the coach to do all their heavy lifting instead of being an active participant in the process. 

5. Coaching not being seen as an organizational priority

What is coaching in the workplace? It’s a technique by which you can arm the employees with relevant knowledge, skills, and tools essential for them to achieve the organizational and individual professional goals. A lot of top executives of leading companies in the world have openly admitted the benefits coaching has made to their careers and lives. But many companies are still reluctant to make coaching their executives a priority–one of the common barriers to coaching in the workplace. Especially companies that operate on the basis of a top-down approach are used to bosses telling their team members what and how to do things rather than taking professional help to coach employees. But this is one of the training challenges that offers a myopic overview that is only aimed at short-term profits but ignores the long-term gains of improving work culture, employee behaviour, improving relationship between colleagues, boosting team spirit & morale, and improving productivity and revenues that committed coaching programs can deliver.

6. Time management 

Starting a coaching business is a step up, not just in terms of fulfilling your ambitions, but also in terms of added responsibilities and demands. Managing clients, administrative work, and business-related matters such as finances, marketing, networking, etc., are crucial to the survival and expansion of your business.

But all these factors can put a lot of strain on your time management. Many coaches find it challenging to juggle multiple responsibilities and have the toughest time prioritizing their tasks. Further, you are a person, not a machine, and need a certain amount of time to unwind and relax, otherwise, there’s a real chance of burnout. Having a healthy balance of work and life is essential for your long-term development, both in terms of your career and personal. 

Using business tools that help you with effective planning, limiting interruptions, assigning priority to high-impact tasks, and more is a smart way to manage your most precious commodity – time!

4 Common Business Challenges 

1. Getting clients 

As a coach, clients are the oxygen that keeps your business alive, and naturally, you want to get as many clients for your coaching center as possible. But that is easier said than done. With all the qualifications, ICF coaching certification, work experience, coaching competencies and skills, knowledge, networking, marketing, and promotion efforts, many coaches still find themselves twiddling their thumbs, waiting to get paying clients. It can be discouraging to not have clients despite having all the credentials.  

Coaches can go back to the simple, but tried & tested basics of conveying their services and the value that they bring to their client, targeting the right clientele, ensuring that they have a strong brand online, offering smart coaching packages with attractive programs & pricing, registering with a coaches’ network that not only expands their reach but also keeps them updated on the recent goings-on in the industry, and more.

2. Having a solid business plan 

With all the required coaching credentials, an application in the coaching job board may bring hundreds of interviews and opportunities your way. But if you want to build an independent coaching business, your coaching certificates will only take you so far. Many coaches make the mistake of thinking that they have a great idea of starting their own coaching business and venture into it without the necessary amount of thought and planning. Not having a detailed business plan can hurt your coaching business not just in terms of defining the exact bouquet of coaching services that you offer but also in financial terms by not doing the essential income-expenditure analysis beforehand. 

Additionally, a business plan lets you create a sound strategy to connect with clients, understand where you stand in terms of the competition and how to improve your standing, set realistic & achievable goals, and not fall into the trap of exerting yourself beyond your means. 

There are hundreds of professional coaches offering top-notch services to clients; if you want to stand out and succeed, you need to have a sound business plan in place before commencing your coaching venture.  

3. Adjusting to new technologies 

With online coaching slowly becoming the norm and not the exception, a lot of coaches who were not well-versed in the technical side of their profession struggled to catch up. With the Covid-19 pandemic and working from home becoming the new reality, adapting to online coaching methods became a necessity. 

Earlier, coaches who were conducting one-on-one, personalized coaching and needed only to be conversant with operating the phone, suddenly found themselves navigating the unknown world of video conferencing, chats, online meetings, webinars, and online forums.

But technology is here to stay and if you want to survive in the fiercely competitive world of online coaching, you have to adapt to newer technologies as it lets you reach a huge audience, not just nationally but internationally as well, at just the click of a button. 

4. Choosing the right online platform for promotion 

There are numerous online platforms available to promote your coaching business but selecting the correct one is the key. Many coaches often make the mistake of thinking that reaching out to the maximum number of clients means being present on all and every available online channel – from emails to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, online forums, YouTube, and more. This can backfire as online platforms give maximum returns but only when you have relevant content to push through. And there is only a limited amount of quality content that you can repurpose across channels. 

It is a better strategy to concentrate on mediums that best suit your business requirements. Some coaching platforms suit solo entrepreneurs while others might be more appropriate for bigger enterprises looking to further scale their offerings. No matter which platform you choose, there should be no compromise on the quality of client engagement that you offer. 

Choosing a comprehensive coaching management software that offers an integrated solution – admin, finance, content management, scheduling, pricing, and other important features is necessary for any individual coach as well as coaching business. 

No business is a piece of cake and there are bound to be roadblocks. How you face those coach challenges is key to whether you prosper as a coach or struggle to find a foothold in the industry. Now that you are aware of the potential challenges that may come your way as a coach, you will surely be well prepared to handle them smartly and carve out a name as a successful coach. 


1. What are the barriers to coaching and mentoring?

Coaches can face multiple sets of challenges, some related to actual coaching and others related to the business side of their coaching venture. Lack of time and resources, long-term planning, not figuring out the real objectives and outcomes of a coaching session, non-appreciation of the value of coaching to individuals and organization, lack of a detailed business plan, trouble adapting to the latest technologies and the most crucial one – struggling to find clients are some of the main challenges that coaches face. 

2. What should you keep in mind while overcoming barriers to coaching and mentoring?

It takes time, patience, and thorough planning for a coaching journey to succeed, amongst other things. But the topmost factor is the trust and partnership between the coach and coachee. Creating favourable first impressions by putting the client at ease, creating a comfortable and secure environment for coaching, building confidence in the coachee that you are the best person to coach them by gaining their trust, keeping an open mind to all possible viewpoints, projecting a confident, assured, calm demeanour that helps the client provide real insights into their challenges and aspirations, being a medium to let the client reach their conclusions & solutions, tracking their session-wise progress, and most importantly, providing solid support to the client in their journey towards achieving their desired goals.

3. How can a coach find and retain clients?

There are a number of ways by which coaches can find and retain their clients. Some of the proven ways are:

  1. Sharing relevant and valuable content consistently with your clients and on social media platforms frequented by your prospects
  2. Design a personal brand that appeals to your prospects
  3. Request references from your existing clients
  4. Arrange for loyalty programs for your regular coaching clients
  5. Offer enhanced client experience

4. How can a coach stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices?

If you want to be at the crest of a wave as a coach, it’s crucial that you stay relevant. Here’re a few tips and tricks that helps you stay up-to-date with the industry trends and best practices:

  1. Read relevant publications
  2. Engage in relevant social media platforms
  3. Interact with thought leaders
  4. Talk to professionals in your network
  5. Surf Google or Apple News for any latest updates
  6. Subscribe to relevant news alerts/ newsletters

5. How can a coach manage self-doubt and imposter syndrome?

It takes the right strategy for a coach to manage self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Here’re some of the ways you can tackle these challenges and help your clients as well:

  1. Focus on what you are good at and how you can help your client
  2. Seek help from a skilled coach if required
  3. Take small yet viable steps towards eliminating the thought
  4. Convert your weakness into strength. Help your clients by implementing strategies based on your own experience.

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author

An avid reader with love for books on history, sci-fi and popular fiction, Pallavi is a gifted content writer. She is also a keen listener of Indian semi & classical music. Currently, she juggles her duties of being a full-time mom with part-time content writing.

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