Q: I am coaching a person who is multitalented in various unrelated areas, but at professional levels. He is highly educated and has owned his own businesses in several unrelated fields. He is accomplished in many different fields, but he is confused about what he now wants to do. The one word he repeatedly mentions when we discuss returning to each field is “boring.” His historical pattern has been to change careers every few years because he got bored. Boredom is not a meaningful excuse for anyone not to take action.
I like helping clients find the field that best suits them, but I think this client has a deeper, more underlying problem that holds him back from committing. He points out many areas he is qualified to go into, but then he offers excuses as to why he doesn’t want to open a business in the field he himself has suggested as a potential business.
I have never had any client so filled with excuses as to why he doesn’t want to work in a specific field. I think he likely has a severe case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and needs to take assessment tests and stay in counseling to explore these excuses; he has also had multiple marriages to women who have all divorced him. At first, I thought he created excuses because he really doesn’t want to work. Now I don’t think he is even aware that he makes up excuses. He told me he had leaned on each wife to take the lead in career- and business-related matters.
I don’t want to overstep the boundaries of what a coach should be addressing with him, but I’m afraid if I tell him I cannot help he will quickly find an unqualified coach with no ADHD experience, and he or she will hook him into weekly appointments and fall into filling his need for an emotional crutch. I don’t want to sound pompous, but with the many coaches I meet, too many are focused on making money above everything else.
I would really like to guide him, since making money will help him solve his problems, but it is really an area for a psychologist (one who has a doctorate) specializing in ADHD. I am afraid he will not know how to interview a psychologist because he has trouble listening and will not be able to weed out the psychologists who are not qualified.
A: Whoa. This isn’t a day at the races where you’ve placed a bet on your family’s favorite horse. Coaches should be calm, cool and collected. Instead, you sound like you’re his mother, but if you were, your relationship would still not be healthy. It’s one thing to want to help a person; it’s another thing to want to live life for the person, control every little detail and take over.
Let him live on his own terms so he can make a mix of good and bad choices. When he asks for your feedback, give it. Hopefully, he will ask before he makes a mistake, and it may be large or small, but that’s how he will learn. No one can fully protect another, and you shouldn’t want to. That’s not coaching. It is called helicopter parenting, and not because helicopter rides are thrilling. It is due to a child not being able to rid themselves of an overinvolved parent.
It sounds like he has already lassoed you into his mommy trap, the very behavior you worried about him seeking in a new coach. This is why you never want to criticize or warn a client of what another coach may do. Every coach can fall prey to a client’s manipulative behavior, which is why focusing on what you don’t want for the client may net that very outcome. The best solution now may be for you to let go by admitting you may be too invested in the outcome to continue as his coach.
Some people never admit their flaws, but everyone has them; admitting flaws only makes you human and more trustworthy. If you know a coach you comfortably refer clients to when you know working with the person is not going to be fruitful for either of you, cut the cord sooner rather than later and help the client move on.
This may serve as a useful lesson in looking into oneself before jumping to conclusions regarding another’s flaws.
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