Stop Making These Coaching Mistakes, by Paul Kaye




Paul Kaye

By Paul Kaye

PSR Contributor

Tuesday February 14th, 2017




It doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a coach, I guarantee you’re making mistakes.  I know I do.  Often.  Working with people to improve performance is tough and there is no secret blueprint for how to do it perfectly each time.  What makes the world fascinating is that everyone sees it slightly differently.  Yes, there are similarities between people with groups of us sharing aligned values and beliefs but even amongst our similarities we still have differences of opinion and perspectives. With people being so unique it means coaching needs to be individualized.  No matter how experienced you are or how good your track record is, each person provides you with a new coaching challenge. 

What distinguishes the good coaches from the rest is that they can identify their mistakes and take quick corrective measures.  More importantly they minimize the impact of their mistakes by having a selfless intention – to always do what is best for the coachee.

As I observe coaching sessions and talk openly about coaching with people it’s easy to spot the common pitfalls that we most often make.  Here are 7 of the most common coaching mistakes that you’re probably making without even realizing it:

  1. You’re trying to be a great coach
  2. You’re setting the coaching agenda
  3. You miss the importance of building confidence
  4. You fail to focus on strengths
  5. You aren’t saying what needs to be said
  6. You’re steering people to your best path
  7. You’re not getting commitment

Let’s explore these 7 common coaching mistakes a little more and how you can easily overcome them…

You’re trying to be a great coach

  • Coaching is about empowering others. It is about unlocking the potential in someone else and helping them achieve their goals.  It’s about them and advancing their performance; it’s not about you.  Put your efforts into helping them be great.  One of the questions I like to ask new managers is “Are you comfortable helping other’s become successful and recognized but never getting credit for it?”  People who aren’t truly comfortable with this concept simply can’t hide their physical reaction to the question. They don’t make good coaches!

 You’re setting the coaching agenda

  • When you decide what the coachee needs to improve on your managing them not coaching them. In a coaching conversation you don’t own the agenda, they do! Before you start coaching find out what the coachee wants to achieve. There are some crucial questions you should ask; “How can I be most helpful to you?”  “Where do you want to go?”  “What skills/abilities do you think you need to work on?”

 You miss the importance of building confidence

  • Building confidence is one of the most – if not the most – important roles of a coach. In our adult lives, we lose confidence when we are criticized by others, when there are negative people in our lives, when we negatively self-talk (“I’m not as good as they are”) or when we fail to achieve our goals.  Effective coaches understand that a lack of confidence is the enemy of improving performance.  They work to improve confidence by practicing participatory feedback, encouraging a two way dialogue – not a monologue – with the coachee.  They highlight the positives in the coachee’s work and work collaboratively to ensure the coachee sets themselves realistic and achievable goals… and they remember to celebrate progress as the coachee pursues their goal.  Most importantly they build rapport and an environment of trust – a “we’re in this together” 

 You fail to focus on strengths

  • An individual’s potential for growth comes from discovering and developing their strongest skills, attributes and prevalent talents. Making someone’s strengths more profound is a positive way to quickly enhance their overall performance.  It is more motivating to focus on becoming exceptional in areas you’re already good at than trying to improve something you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at.   If your coaching conversations are nothing more than a list of negatives – things the coachee does poorly and needs to improve – you’re wasting both their time and yours!

 You aren’t saying what needs to be said

  • It takes great courage to ‘tell it as it is’ with people. The best advice I was ever given was “always walk away empty”.  Never leave a coaching conversation having something left to say.  To have a truly effective coaching relationship you need trust.  Trust can’t be formed unless there is honesty.  It is your responsibility to share the truth with the coachee, even if it may be painful to hear.  You can’t achieve a “we’re in this together” mentality if you hold things back.

 You’re steering people to your best path

  • As a coach it is your job to shine a light on areas of opportunity but it can be all too easy to shine a light on the best path to success. The best path as you see it!  That is not coaching, that’s directing; all you’re doing is encouraging people to follow your advice.  A coach’s role is to help the coachee discover their own path for success. To discover their own destiny.  Ask questions rather than offer answers. Everyone is capable of finding their own way if they truly want to achieve more and are given a chance.

 You’re not getting commitment

  • At the end of a coaching conversation you must get commitment from the coachee. You must encourage them to commit to advancing their cause in some way.  Setting goals is an important part of development.  Goals create vision and motivation.  A specific goal gives you the clarity you need to take action.  For anyone to move forwards they need to know where they are going.

I am sure there are many more coaching mistakes being made in business.  It would be easy to see making mistakes as a failing on your part but great coaches are committed to constant learning; they want to hone their skills and refine their approach.  They are motivated by an unwavering desire to help unlock the potential that lies in others.  They accept they will make mistakes – just as those they coach will – but they carry on knowing that making progress is often just as rewarding as accomplishing the goal… good luck!


About Paul Kaye

Originally from England, Paul spent nearly a decade programming radio stations in the UK before moving to Canada in 2012.  While working for Newcap Radio, Paul programmed Classic Hits, Hot-AC and CHR formats in Vancouver & Calgary. Paul was also Newcap’s National Talent Development Director, tasked with improving performance across all content teams, overseeing syndication and leading talent acquisition. In 2016, he joined Rogers Media, as National Talent Coach and National Format Director (CHR).  Paul was somehow named International PD of the year in 2016 (vote re-count pending) and is a certified coach.  Paul lives in Toronto and can be reached at ka*******@ma**.com

Other Puget Sound Radio articles by Paul Kaye HERE

Paul’s LinkedIn



  1. First, I appreciate how Paul is promulgating a more humane approach here.
    (They still shoot horses, don’t they?) 🙂

    However, we are talking about radio’s talent in radio’s contemporary environments here, are we not?

    With rare exceptions, on-air talent has, for the last decades, been forced to play in a 6×6 sandbox surrounded by 20-foot walls. They have also been manacled to the walls – just in case they get a little too frisky (as defined by corporate).

    One has to presume that any coach worth their salt is able to identify that which needs to be improved AND has the chops to intervene appropriately and effectively – without coming off as authoritarian OR patronizing.

    One must also presume that the talent has the acumen to actually identify their own foibles – mechanical and psychological.

    Most talent, I submit, already know they are shackled and screwed, and any attempts to adjust their confidence and “self esteem” could easily be accepted and/or rejected as a maudlin attempt at gaining some form of rapport.
    Those talents who don’t recognise they are working with massive, applied limitations will have already imbibed in copious quantities of the ubiquitous and toxic Kool-Aid.

    As to focussing on strengths: Most talent has been forbidden to exercise any strengths with which they may have arrived. Plus, they have been forbidden from lifting any weights or otherwise getting into shape.

    I am satisfied that talent wants, among other things, to get on the air more often and for longer periods of time. They also want the satisfaction of having a positive and genuine impact on their audiences.

    These people need to be taught communicative skills and they won’t pick them up from the universe through osmosis. Nor will they acquire what is needed to be effective through a process of personal contemplation.

    Indeed, it is incumbent on a coach to BE a great coach. Anything less is just another dance around the mulberry bush.

    I am also a certified coach and yes, I want to be recognized for assisting and guiding a client to achieving their well-formed outcomes.
    Plus (and call me nutso), I insist on being paid, as well. 🙂


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