The Coaching Relationship: How to Avoid Pitfalls and Keep it Healthy

Dr Lisa Turner

Dr Lisa Turner

World renowned visionary, author, high-performance mindset trainer for coaches to elevate skills, empower clients to achieve their maximum potential

The coaching relationship between a coach and their client is a unique and dynamic one that requires careful nurturing to ensure its health. While coaching can be a highly effective tool for personal and professional growth, it can also be fraught with pitfalls that can derail the relationship. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the common challenges that coaches face and how to avoid them.

One of the most significant pitfalls that coaches must avoid is allowing their personal biases to affect their coaching relationship. This can manifest in various ways, such as favoring certain clients over others or imposing their viewpoints on their clients. To avoid this, coaches must be aware of their biases and work to keep them in check. They must also prioritize active listening, which involves listening more than they speak, to ensure that they are not imposing their views on their clients.

Another common challenge that coaches face is maintaining healthy boundaries with their clients. Coaches must strike a balance between being supportive and empathetic while also maintaining a professional distance. They must avoid becoming too emotionally invested in their clients' lives, which can lead to burnout and boundary violations. At the same time, coaches must be empathetic and supportive, providing a safe space for their clients to explore their thoughts and feelings. By maintaining healthy boundaries, coaches can ensure that their coaching relationships remain healthy and productive.

Building a Strong Coaching Relationship

Coaching is a collaborative process that requires a strong relationship between the coach and coachee. A positive coaching relationship is built on trust, effective communication, and psychological safety. In this section, we will discuss how coaches can establish trust and promote effective communication to build a strong coaching relationship.

Establishing Trust

Trust is the foundation of any successful coaching relationship. Coaches must earn the trust of their coachees by demonstrating trustworthiness. This can be achieved by respecting coachees as individuals, maintaining confidentiality, and communicating clearly. When coaches create a safe space for growth and change, coachees are more likely to be open and honest, which can lead to more productive coaching sessions.

To establish trust, coaches can:

  • Be reliable: Coaches should keep their commitments and follow through on their promises.
  • Be empathetic: Coaches should demonstrate empathy and understanding towards their coachees.
  • Be transparent: Coaches should communicate openly and honestly with their coachees.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is essential for building a strong coaching relationship. Coaches must be able to communicate clearly and listen actively to their coachees. When coaches and coachees communicate effectively, they can work together to identify goals, develop action plans, and track progress.

To promote effective communication, coaches can:

  • Provide feedback: Coaches should provide constructive feedback that is specific, timely, and actionable.
  • Listen actively: Coaches should listen to their coachees without interruption and ask clarifying questions to ensure they understand.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Coaches should ask questions that encourage coachees to reflect and explore their thoughts and feelings.

By establishing trust and promoting effective communication, coaches can build a strong coaching relationship that fosters growth and development.

Pitfalls to Avoid

When it comes to coaching relationships, there are some common pitfalls that coaches should be aware of in order to ensure that the relationship stays healthy and productive. Two of the most common pitfalls are failure and burnout.

Failure and How to Handle It

One of the biggest fears that coaches and coachees have is failure. Coaches may fear that they are not providing enough value to their coachee, while coachees may fear that they are not making enough progress. However, it’s important to recognize that failure is a natural part of the coaching process. Coaches should encourage their coachees to view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than as a reason to give up.

When failure does occur, coaches should work with their coachees to identify what went wrong and why. This can help the coachee to develop new strategies and approaches that will be more effective in the future. Coaches should also be supportive and encouraging, reminding their coachees that failure is not a reflection of their worth or abilities.

Avoiding Burnout

Coaching can be a demanding and emotionally draining process, and coaches and coachees alike may be at risk of burnout. To avoid burnout, coaches should be mindful of their own needs and limitations, and should take steps to ensure that they are taking care of themselves. This may involve setting boundaries around their coaching practice, taking time off when needed, and seeking support from colleagues or mentors.

Coaches should also be aware of the signs of burnout in their coachees, such as decreased motivation, increased stress, and a lack of progress. If they notice these signs, coaches should work with their coachees to identify the underlying causes and develop strategies to address them. This may involve adjusting the coaching approach, setting more realistic goals, or taking a break from coaching altogether.

By being aware of these pitfalls and taking steps to avoid them, coaches can help to ensure that their coaching relationships are healthy, productive, and fulfilling for both themselves and their coachees.

Maintaining a Healthy Coaching Relationship

Establishing a healthy coaching relationship is crucial for coaches and clients alike. Trust, respect, and open communication are the foundation of a successful partnership. But how can coaches ensure that this relationship remains healthy and productive? Here are some tips:

The Coaching Conversation

The coaching conversation is the heart of the coaching relationship. It is where the coach and the client work together to identify goals, obstacles, and strategies for success. To maintain a healthy coaching conversation, coaches should:

  • Listen actively: Coaches should listen attentively to their clients and ask clarifying questions to ensure that they understand the clients’ perspective.
  • Avoid judgment: Coaches should avoid making assumptions or judgments about their clients and instead approach the conversation with an open mind.
  • Encourage reflection: Coaches should encourage their clients to reflect on their experiences and insights. This helps clients gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their goals.
  • Provide feedback: Coaches should provide feedback that is honest, constructive, and actionable. Feedback should be focused on the clients’ behavior and actions, not their personality or character.


Milestones are important markers of progress in the coaching relationship. They help clients see how far they’ve come and motivate them to keep moving forward. To maintain a healthy focus on milestones, coaches should:

  • Celebrate successes: Coaches should celebrate their clients’ successes, no matter how small. This helps clients feel appreciated and motivated.
  • Acknowledge challenges: Coaches should acknowledge the challenges their clients face and help them develop strategies for overcoming them.
  • Revisit goals: Coaches should regularly revisit their clients’ goals to ensure that they are still relevant and meaningful. This helps clients stay focused and motivated.

Team Culture

Coaching relationships do not exist in a vacuum. They are influenced by the culture of the team or organization in which they take place. To maintain a healthy coaching relationship within a team culture, coaches should:

  • Establish clear boundaries: Coaches should establish clear boundaries around the coaching relationship to ensure that it remains professional and respectful.
  • Foster a culture of trust: Coaches should work to foster a culture of trust within the team or organization. This helps clients feel safe and supported.
  • Model healthy behavior: Coaches should model healthy behavior for their clients and encourage them to do the same. This helps create a positive and productive team culture

By following these tips, coaches can maintain a healthy coaching relationship that supports their clients’ growth and success.

Ensuring Longevity in the Coaching Relationship

A coaching relationship is an ongoing process that requires effort and attention to maintain. The longevity of the coaching relationship is crucial for the success of the coaching process. Here are some tips to ensure that the coaching relationship remains healthy and productive.

Experimentation and Creativity

One way to ensure the longevity of the coaching relationship is to encourage experimentation and creativity. A coach can help their client think outside the box and try new approaches to old problems. This can help the client stay engaged and motivated in the coaching process.

To encourage experimentation, the coach can suggest new techniques or exercises that the client can try. They can also ask the client to brainstorm new ideas and approaches. By doing so, the coach can help the client find new solutions to old problems and keep the coaching process fresh and exciting.

The Role of Scrum

Scrum is a project management framework that can be applied to coaching. It emphasizes teamwork, collaboration, and continuous improvement. By using Scrum, the coach can help the client stay on track and achieve their goals.

In Scrum, the coach and client work together to define goals and create a plan to achieve them. They then work in short, iterative sprints to make progress towards those goals. At the end of each sprint, they review their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their plan.

By using Scrum, the coach can help the client stay focused and motivated. They can also help the client break down their goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can make the coaching process less overwhelming and more achievable.


In conclusion, ensuring the longevity of the coaching relationship is crucial for the success of the coaching process. By encouraging experimentation and creativity, and using Scrum to stay on track, the coach can help the client stay engaged and motivated. With these tips, the coaching relationship can remain healthy and productive for the long term.

Dr Lisa Turner



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