Have you ever learned an uncomfortable truth—maybe about yourself, your business, or your family—and then tried to forget it? Even if you can push it to the back of your mind, the damage has already been done. You can’t unlearn things, just as you can’t unsee things. You are stuck with that information until you act on it, and resolve the issue. In many coaching sessions with clients, we discover those difficult obstacles together. Sometimes these obstacles are people, processes, or even the client themselves.

When obstacles occur and solutions are presented, the client focuses on the outcome, which is awesome. That outcome can also lead to difficult changes, either with their leadership style or within the organization itself. These uncomfortable truths must be addressed.

As a coach it’s my job to point out these issues, and help my clients identify solutions. But I can only be as effective as my clients allow. If they are not willing to address the problem, it limits my impact. When a client puts their head in the sand and ignores an issue, it’s time to have a tough conversation about whether or not we should continue working together.

I have been told that ‘I shake up companies,’ as the benefits from the solutions they implement aren’t always immediately apparent. I help my clients see what is taking place in their organization, because I have an objective viewpoint as an outsider. However, the benefits of changes aren’t always immediately felt by those inside the organization. Sometimes the result is difficult, and feels like a shake up, or even, a break up.

Here is an example: In a small company I worked with, the turnover escalated for the first six months of my working with the business owners. We didn’t talk about firing people. We discussed operational standards, implementation strategies, and tactics for maintaining fairness in the workplace. The client struggled with a lack of consistency that caused friction between team members, wasting both time and money. As the business owners learned and practiced consistency, team members who did not want to work with consistent business practices decided to leave. Cue the shake up.

While this is a very simple example, there are many more. Coaches and consultants help their clients learn more about themselves and their organizations in a variety of ways. It’s great learning, even if the action that comes out of the learning can be painful. We take difficult steps together and make decisions. At the end of the day, the choice to take action lies with the client.

They are the ones seeking out coaching, and with what comes to light in those sessions, are responsible for the outcomes afterwards. It is up to the client to make those decisions and work with the impact that unfolds.  

In my work now as a coach to the coaches, I also have to be tough with our Actionable Consulting Partners. I point out patterns and problems with their business, and help them work through solutions. Just as physicians can’t heal themselves, consultants need an outside perspective to identify their blind spots. While these conversations aren’t always easy, they are often rewarding.

Sometimes it’s time to fire a client, end a project, or reframe a relationship if the objectivity or enthusiasm is no longer there.

At times, we all need objective observers to help us identify our blind spots. It may be difficult or uncomfortable to acknowledge our failings, but once we know about them, we have a choice—work on a solution, or ignore the problem. Maybe it makes me a “mean coach,” but I’d always rather work toward a solution. Whether I am coaching my clients, or coaching the coaches, I prefer to face the hard truths head on.

overcoming obstacles