Coaching the Uncoachable — The Too Busy To change Type
As part of my routine as a coach, I often have to deal with different kinds of resistance. Over the coming weeks, I aim to aggregate the different types of resistance traits I have encountered so far. Furthermore, you will learn most, if not all, of my trial-and-error approaches to overcome coaching/change resistance. Certainly you can find proper research of the types I mention here but this series of blog posts also works as a reminder to myself :)
List of resistance types I have seen so far:
- The “there’s no problem” type
- Something or someone else is the problem
- The “yes but” person
- Overly sensitive, taking it personal
- Doesn’t take directions well / Doesn’t understand what you say
- Bad memories from coaching
- The too busy to change
Bear in mind that everything I suggested here is strongly dependent on the context of your coaching engagement at the team and individual levels. At the end of the day, it’s up to your own judgement to try them with your coachees. Remember, there’s no silver bullet :)
The Too Busy to Change Type
The most common trait of this kind of individual is how they vindicate all of their time to focus on their work and related activities. When dealing with this type of person, besides hearing the common mantra of “I’m too busy” every time you start a conversation with them, you will probably face other supporting statements. Some declarations can be quite concrete like “I have a deadline at the end of the week” while others might be more abstract, requiring further investigation, such as “I’m swamped by work, I don’t even have time for my family”.
“I have a deadline at the end of the week”
As a Coach, we should be able to discern whether your coachee is actually overloaded. In case you are still learning to identify whether someone's overwhelmed at work, I recommend you read this excellent blog post from Psychology Today.
In case your coachee is actually overloaded, your approach is to work with his peers and managers to alleviate his workload. Your coaching time with him might still be part of his schedule but your coaching approach with that individual shall adapt in order not to introduce even more strains on his routine.
“I’m swamped by work, I don’t even have time for my family”
If your coachee is apparently pretending to be busy to avoid changes or even just procrastinating, here are a few things we can try to get a ahold of their attention and effort:
- if your team is having standups, announce to the team that you plan to work (coach) with that busy person today. He might claim he’s not available or still deflect his engagement throughout the day, however you are making him accountable in front of everyone for not accepting your coaching. Not that the others will closely observe, but it will unconsciously influence him to make time for coaching.
- Invite him for lunch, brown bag lunch at the office or even a happy hour after work. Connect at a personal level, ask about issues he’s facing at work. Don’t let the conversation move to what you as a coach can help if he doesn’t ask. Yet, don’t be just a listener, share your own experience whenever it’s possible. When your coachee realises you also experienced the same or similar pain before, their trust on you significantly increases. Once you get ahold of his problems, work together with him or even separately to fix one or more of his issues. Make him notice you are there to help and not simply dictate him what to do.
- Lastly, you can opt to escalate the issue: get her line-manager buy-in to focus in improvements. Point out issues you observed, make sure you both agree on an engagement target, let’s say, 20–30% of the coachee time, 2 mornings per week or anything that’s reasonable and make sure you document all your activities with the coachee so in case her line-manager asks how much time you are spending with her, you have your work log to back it up.
Have you encountered this type of resistance before? How did you solve it? Leave your comment with your approach and let's discuss :)