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Mary Jo Asmus


Is it possible that an assessment of whether someone is coachable comes down to one broad topic: "Is this person willing to take personal responsibility for their thoughts, words, and actions?".

One of my favorite questions to ask when a potential (or current) client is complaining about something or someone "out there" is "What's your role in that?". Sometimes they will rightfully accept some responsibility and sometimes they will rightfully claim no responsibility and move on in the conversation (both of these directions can be a good sign). If the conversation continues in the vein of complaining about everyone and everthing else out there, this may be indicative that the person just isn't coachable.

Steve Roesler


"What's your role in that?" is a real jewel.

And yes, all of those 5 thoughts involve personal responsibility. Absent that, coaching is a waste of time. Outplacement might be a better use of corporate funds.

Rodney Johnson

Steve, great list and insight. I believe there is one core element you're missing, this being the willingness to delve into the "silent problems" they or their organization is facing. I've defined a silent problem as a problem that is being avoided, neglected or going unnoticed. I have a graphic on my blog that shows the relationship between silent problems and business performance over at:


If they are unwilling to go down the road of discussing the silent problems they're facing, the ability to make a difference is greatly diminished. When they are willing to discuss their silent problems and the coach can help them create a strategy around them, their business performs better and their role in the organization is greatly improved.

Steve Roesler


Hey, I'm in on this one.

That's part of what I was getting at in #3 but you expanded on it. I think one of the most useful services a coach or mentor can provide is "organizational savvy" which, of course, requires delving into those kinds of issues.

(Readers, check out Rodney's link)

Wally Bock

I'm not sure where this goes in the discussion or list, but I think it's important to know how you process feedback. I think receiving feedback is a skill that needs to be practiced and grounded in the nature of the person.

I know, for example, that my first reaction to criticism is to return fire. That was, indeed, my modus operandi for a couple of decades. I had to learn specific behaviors that I could use in that situation. I had to practice them. And I had to tell people who worked with me about them.

David Hinde | Orgtopia

Hi Steve,

Hi Steve,

Openness, self-awareness and commitment to change – agree with you on all of those. I think an important part of coaching is the initial engagement with the client. I always give them a short presentation on what they can expect. A lot of this will be an attempt to get them out of the mindset that I am going to “fix” them or give them some magic instructions that will change their lives for the better. If I can I usually get them to sign a brief coaching agreement, which shows that the client is completely responsible for their own improvement, change will only come from their commitment to the process and assuring them of the confidentiality of the process so that they can feel comfortable with being open.

Steve Roesler


That's a public service.

Colleagues and I have toyed with the statistic, but we figure that about 90% of anything that's ever gone wrong has been the result of not doing solid, up-front contracting with the client.

Your description of your explicit "fix" vs. "personal responsibility" coaching agreement is one that coaches and consultants would be well-served to follow if they aren't doing it now.

Camille Macchio


Great list. I especially like #1 -- Commitment to Change. In fact, a version of it is my tagline, "Commit to Change - Elevate your Success."

My comment about "fix" vs. "personal responsibility", I work with professionals who have been identified as company "keepers" and high achievers. In conversations with decision makers in the HR departments, it's so very apparent that companies are no longer willing to engage coaches for problem employees, and to me that makes perfect sense. The challenge, as it has been communicated to me, is that there needs to be a change in the overall mindset at a company site that coaching is not about fixing problems but more about enhancing and maximizing personal and professional performance.

Michael Ling


It's the term 'coachable' that caught my eyes. If we would apply the same thoughts to other professions such as consultants, doctors, advisers, would we end up with interesting terms like 'consultable', 'doctorable' and 'advisable'..

Your points are absolutely critical.. but, in practice, the challenge lies in the fact we might not have a chance to find out the orientations of the clients at all. What should we do if we have a 'uncoachable' subject? Should we give up? Should we behave differently? I think the coach may still need to face the reality, and use the tools and techniques to 'coach' them, make them more 'coachable', make them change...

What are your thoughts?


Steve Roesler


It's an encouraging sign when organizations take the time to thoughtfully identify the real high performers and then coach and develop with intentionality.

While I'm all for that, I sometimes have this question in the back of my mind: "Are there people out there who haven't gotten a real chance or who have never received some straight talk that could have put the "in the game"?

Sometimes we'll never know.

Steve Roesler


I'm not really getting the meaning of the first line. Sorry.

As for coaching or doctoring or consulting to "make them change"; you can only offer the options that they can choose or not choose. It boils down to taking responsibility for one's actions.

In the coaching and consulting business--especially early on--it's easy to work overtime, agonizing and strategizing about just "one more way" to help/make a client see the light. What you are really seeing is a client who may be willing to pay good money to talk about the possibility of doing something differently but never actually doing it.

I've adopted a hard and fast rule: In coaching and consulting, never work harder than your client if the issue is about behavioral change. When you do, it's a signal that the client is not ready to move, at least on that particular issue.

peter vajda

Hi Steve,

I think the issue here, in your comment to Michael, is to look for commitment..in thought AND deed. That usually indicates, to me at least, whether someone is ready, willing and able to forward the action of their life over and above, as one person said, "I'm thinking about getting ready to get started," and as another said, "It's a definite possibility." Those two are red flags that tell me walk away and don't invest any further energy.

Steve Roesler


Why didn't I say it that way?!

Concisely and understandably put.

coach kristin bags

I think the issue here, in your comment to Michael, is to look for commitment..in thought AND deed.

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