Beware of cliff

Some time ago, I was talking with a friend about a company that is heading for a cliff. The tricky part is that the leaders of this family business don’t see the cliff coming. So they’re driving along happily toward a crash.

My friend expressed his frustration about the situation and mentioned that he had tried to get the owners’ attention but they had blown him off. Whether he’s too close to the situation (he’s a distant relative himself) or just hadn’t hit them at the right time in the right way, we can’t tell.

But it’s not unusual for coaches to run into the same situation. You see a consistent pattern that’s getting in the way of the person you’re coaching. You try to help her see it. Maybe she even flirts with awareness. But every time she gets close to it, she pulls back. It can be exasperating. What to do?

I’ve fallen into two extremes, neither of which work very well. One is to jam the issue in my client’s face and tell them what they should do. This usually just makes her dig in her heels even further. It may even get me fired as her coach – not tragic, but the end of my influence nonetheless.

The other extreme is to declare defeat and do nothing – to basically blame her for her own blindness. A better way is to stay right there in the situation with her and to ask questions that might, just maybe, help her to realize the pickle she’s in and some action she can take to move forward.

And sometimes, clients just don’t want to change right now. They know the downsides of their current way of doing work, but they are unwilling or unable to change. And that’s their right too – in the end, each person owns his life.

How do you handle a client who doesn’t want to change?