Client Refuses to Do the Work

If you’re a practicing Life Coach you are going to run into the client who is going to be underperforming. For whatever reason, the client is not fulfilling their end of the bargain in the coaching relationship. What can you do when your client refuses to do the work?

All coaches should have a given specialization, and as part of the coaching agreement, your client agrees to do the work necessary to achieve their goals and/or continued personal and professional growth.

You may notice at some time in your coaching when a particular client reaches a point or enters into a nonproductive phase. Several sessions have passed with no change, and your client seems to have no motivation or commitment to follow through on their end of the bargain. Sure, they don’t have any problem paying for the sessions, but you’re feeling like you’re not being faithful to your commitment to your own calling or mission.

Do I love my clients? Yes. Am I going to do the work for them? No.

Here are 5 steps to consider when your client refuses to do the work

1. Refer Your Client Elsewhere

The client’s needs may have turned away from your specialty and they have found themselves on another path, at least for the moment, or all together. For instance, if I am a Business Coach and have a business client who has committed to increasing their business, and we’ve made good, continued progress until the client’s entering this phase, maybe it’s time to either change our agreement, or refer them to another coach who specializes in the focus that seems to occupy their attention as of late.

Referring him or her is not that difficult for me because I share my Olympia Life Coach practice with many other practitioners. So, it is easy for me to say something like, “I see your life focus has changed while your attention is focused more on your relationship than your business. How about I refer you one of my associates, a Relationship Coach who specializes in the area with which you are now concerned? When you have completed your work with him (or her), you can come back to me when you are ready to focus again on your business.”

For me, it’s important to stay focused on clients with dreams and goals who are willing and able to take action, moving through the process, as necessary, whereby I assist them in achieving their highest and best, if I am to remain true to my own calling. Of course, if they meet with a challenge and they are on top of it, I can shift my focus in the moment, to overcome a persistent challenge, but if they are going to tarry there for long, I am more likely to refer them to a specialist.

2. Reaffirm Commitment to Accountability

It might be a good idea to remind the client about what they sought you out for, again directing them to their initial service agreement, call to action, and performance-based accountability. As a coach, your primary method of operation is to encourage clients to set their goals and keep them accountable for taking the steps necessary to do their part.

While they are having their attention focused away from their own work (that specific work which they contracted you to assist them with) they might suggest that you accept additional compensation for helping them pick up the slack, or perform their part (doing their homework) on their behalf. This would be a good time to reaffirm that is not your responsibility to do their work for them, that is their job. They must be held accountable in keeping their end of the bargain.

Having this discussion might be just what it takes to get them back on track.

3. Review Their File

As your client’s accountability partner, you will have records to use as proof of their nonperformance over the last X number of sessions. While you appreciate their willingness to pay you for being their sounding board, this is not your primary function. Certainly, you want to be empathetic, encouraging, and open. You want to share the details of their personal life, especially if it is interfering with their follow-through and progress toward their goals. While you may be able to get them over the hump for approaching unforeseen challenges that may not be directly related to the performance of their coach, this is a powerful service to offer your client ensuring they do not get waylaid by obstacles that would otherwise impede their progress, but this is not your primary service.

Showing them their consistent lack of action based on your notes may be enough to get them back on track (which reinforces your commitment to keeping adequate records). After all, you are their accountability partner, right? Then it’s up to you to hold them accountable.

4. Set a New Goal

Your client can choose from a couple of options if they are to continue as your coaching client, those options would be to

1. Reinstate the previous task, and set a new date for achieving the task that was missed. Although before agreeing to do this, make them think it through answering questions like,
a. What day will you do it
b. How much time will it take, and
c. Will you have all the tools necessary to accomplish it?
2. Set a new goal or task to complete prior to the next session

Setting an entirely new goal may result in trimming down the agreed upon action to be taken making it more attainable for your client during a period of time when they are not on the top of their game. It’s better to make a little progress than no progress at all.

If that doesn’t work,

5. Final Review

The following session will be a review of your client’s agreement and their inability to follow-through with their end of the bargain. You have already attempted to lower the bar of expectation and renegotiate the original agreement to accommodate for their current distractions.

This will be the final review of their agreements and nonperformance based on your notes.

If they are still unable to be true to their own commitment to their own program for personal or professional growth, then severing the relationship might be in order, either for the interim, until your client is ready to get back on board, or indefinitely.

Be certain to affirm that you are not judging them, are not saying anything about where they are in their life, nothing being right, nothing being wrong, things are just as they are, and this coaching relationship is not working for either of you at this time.

Bid them adieu, with God’s blessings, and refer them to someone else, or simply let them go. You can keep the door open for reestablishing a new coaching relationship, down the road, when they are willing and able.