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What is a bad life coach? 12 signs you cannot ignore

There are times when you are going through a rough patch or even a season of your life, and a great life coach can help you gain clarity, create structure, and improve your outlook on life. Unfortunately, there are some not-so-good life coaches in the marketplace.

To protect your sanity and your wallet, learn the 12 signs of a bad life coach that you cannot ignore.

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There is no such thing as a perfect coach

Before we delve into this issue, I want to emphasize an important idea: Nobody, including you, is perfect.

Coaches have a wide range of temperaments and ideologies. One coach may be great for one group of people but terrible for a different group.

There is no one-size-fits-all coach. For example, I am a life and business coach who specializes in traumas and addiction. Don’t seek my guidance if you need questions answered regarding nutrition or dieting – I’m not the one for that.

The purpose of this article is not to point out any flaws and use them as a reason to bail out from your existing coaching relationship, but rather to identify some serious issues that will undermine not just your mental health, but also how you live your life.

Think of a life coach as a surrogate mother or father. They are teaching you all the things that will help you to relate to yourself and others better. And as a leader, people depend on you to stay sharp, motivated, and inspired. You cannot be an effective leader if you are being mentored by someone with questionable or unprofessional behavior.

Take your time to read each of the 12 signs below and ask yourself this question: Are any of these things happening at least 40% or more of the time since you have worked with your coach?

Some of these examples have been exaggerated for comedic purposes.

A life coach is like a personal trainer for your mind, helping you to build mental resilience and clarity. A bad coach, on the other hand, is simply bad and ought to be avoided at all costs.

12 signs of a Bad Life Coach

Bad Life Coach Sign #1: Poor Communication Skills

“I thought you knew what I was talking about!”

A bad coach struggles to effectively communicate instructions, feedback, and expectations to their team or clients. They may be unclear, vague, or fail to actively listen to others’ concerns.

For example, bad Coach Brad may advise you to always stand up for yourself, no matter what. However, the following week, Brad may retract his statement by telling you that you should never say anything that might offend others. This conflicting advice leaves you feeling confused about how to act in future situations. A coach should be consistent and clear in explaining their guidance to clients.

Bad Life Coach Sign #2: Enabler or people pleaser

“Well, whatever you think is best, is the best move.”

People-pleasing coaches are so busy trying to keep avoid looking bad, they will agree to anything you say. What is the point of having a coach that cannot motivate or inspire you to improve?

And while I am on this subject, you need to understand that many people in healing and helping careers were attracted to this business due to their own personal struggles. For example, I am a recovering alcoholic and a people-pleaser myself. A competent life coach makes sure their unresolved emotional issues do not bleed onto their clients.

Bad Life Coach Sign #3: Inconsistent or erratic 

“Don’t pay attention to what I said earlier. I was not in a great frame of mind because Mercury was in retrograde.”

Ditzy Danielle is a life coach who you should avoid when it comes to achieving your life goals. She relies on the advice of stars, moon, rocks, or crystals, making her indecisive and inconsistent. Additionally, she is unable to lead by example because she is constantly conflicted due to the new age and pop culture advice she reads on her Instagram feed.

When you are dealing with a life coach who constantly shifts and pivots their advice, run, baby, run.

Bad Life Coach Sign #4: Inadequate Knowledge and Expertise

With an aggressive and intimidating voice: “I know what I’m talking about!”

Due to the unregulated nature of the life coaching industry, there are coaches with varying expertise, training, and experience. Unfortunately, charlatans, sociopaths, and narcissists prey on people who are struggling with insecurities, values, and self-image. This can lead to ineffective guidance and incorrect advice.

By the way, I have a library of articles, podcast episodes, courses and content available to read on my social media account. Take your time to review a coach’s background and credentials before signing that coaching contract.

male speaker in front of large audience

Bad Life Coach Sign #5: Ego-Centric Approach

Don’t you know who I am? I do great things for all of my clients!”

Angry Al is widely known for his decades of coaching experience. He has done it all: TED Talks, Forbes Talks, talks with your mother, and has been a guest on every podcast except for mine, thank you very much. His ego is as big as the state of Idaho, but Al wouldn’t know it because he is too busy promoting himself.

When a coach is more focused on showcasing their own achievements and success rather than genuinely supporting and developing their clients, it is clear that you need to exit this working relationship.

Bad Life Coach Sign #6: Pessimistic

“It is pointless here. Just give up now before you lose all of your money and self-esteem.”

Depressed Debbie is the last coach you need to work with. Instead of fostering a positive and encouraging environment, a pessimistic, negative-thinking coaches may use belittlement, or humiliation to motivate individuals. This can be harmful to their self-esteem and motivation.

Yes, there are times when people need a serious wake-up call, but you don’t need to do it while rubbing salt into their emotional wounds.

Bad Life Coach Sign #7: Lack of Adaptability

“I have been using this style since 2005, and it has worked for the majority of my clients.”

Sarah is a stubborn coach who still relies on the coaching manual she obtained when she first received certification as a life coach. Sarah rigidly adheres to outdated methods and strategies, even when they have proven ineffective in the current context.

If you are seeking guidance from a coach who is resistant to change and new ideas, it is difficult to anticipate that they will offer creative ideas for your particular life challenges and circumstances.

woman looking confused while holding onto a baby

Bad Life Coach Sign #8: Failure to create and monitor client goals 

“I just go with the flow, and so should you!”

When everything feels mixed up and chaotic, it’s tough to figure out what you really need. Sometimes, if you have a not-so-great coach, they might not set clear goals or keep track of how you’re doing.

Why? Well, they might be dealing with their own problems. I remember one coach who would have calls with clients while taking care of her kids, sometimes even scolding them during the call. It’s pretty hard to focus on improving your business when you’re hearing your coach yell, “Go wipe your face!”

It’s important for both you and your coach to take responsibility for the work you do together and make sure you have a plan that fits your life.

For instance, when I start working with someone new, we start by talking about their life. We look at how they get along with others, handle problems, and more. Then, based on what they tell me, we come up with a plan together that works for them.

Bad Life Coach Sign #9: Poor time management 

“I need to cancel our session today. Yes, I know our appointment is in less than two hours, and I apologize for having to do this repeatedly, but something important has just come up.”

Lazy Larry is a bad coach who wastes time during sessions. For example, he may use your time to talk about his marital problems or arrive unprepared, confusing your problems with those of another client. Additionally, in some situations, Larry will cancel his meetings without adequate notice.

Coaches with poor time management lack professionalism and commitment. You need a coach who is prepared to talk with you and stay focused on you for the duration of your entire coaching relationship.

Instead of addressing conflicts constructively, an insecure coach avoids dealing with issues or resorts to aggressive behavior, which can lead to a toxic coaching environment.

Bad Life Coach Sign #10: Inability to Handle Conflict

“I have never had a problem with this before. It might be due to your lack of understanding of my coaching methodology.”

Instead of addressing conflicts constructively, an insecure coach avoids dealing with issues or resorts to aggressive behavior, which can lead to a toxic coaching environment. When you are dealing with a coach who is constantly self-conscious and insecure, they cannot help you look at your problems objectively.

Bad Life Coach Sign #11: Unethical Conduct

“Don’t doubt the process. I have over one million LinkedIn followers who agree with me.”

A bad coach may engage in unethical practices, such as exploiting clients for financial gain or breaching confidentiality. They may use their fame and popularity as a shield to criticism.

Unfortunately, this happens far more often than I care to admit. While many articles (here is one about life coach Brooke Castillo) have been written about questionable life coaching behaviors, it is often difficult to distinguish between those who are helpful and those who are harmful.

Bad Life Coach Sign #12: No Demonstrable Results

“[Opinion redacted due to a court order.]” You cannot learn about litigious Lisa due to ironclad nondisclosure agreements.

A poor coach may have had a history of clients failing to achieve their goals or showing little improvement under their guidance. To shield themselves from criticism, they may use anything, including lawsuits and threats to prevent others from learning about your less than positive experience.

In the next and final section, I will share my thoughts about bad coaches. 

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Final thoughts

Nobody is perfect, but life coaching should be a positive and growth-oriented experience. If you encounter any of these signs in a coach, it is essential to re-evaluate the coaching relationship. You don’t need to work with a coach or anyone for that matter who has poor communication skills, leadership or the ability to help you navigate your current challenges. 

Contact me if you need help from an honest and reputable coach.

Dig deeper: Do you believe you are in a toxic relationship? Click here to listen to this episode of my podcast or press the ‘play’ button below.