No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Christmas coaching conundrum


What do you do with the client who gets to the end of the year, telling you, “I’m devastated because I haven’t even started on last year’s new year's resolutions.” Paul Z Jackson and Janine Waldman advise.

The coaching conversation begins…
Coach: So Gavin, what do you want to talk about now?
Gavin: Well, I’m distraught. It’s now the end of the year and I’ve accomplished nothing. Last New Year’s Eve I made resolutions to get a better job, get fit and find a wonderful woman to share my life with. I’m still doing the same job, have put on half a stone and I’m still spending my evenings watching re-runs of the Simpsons… on my own!’s a disaster.

Option 1: The not-so-solutions-focused approach

The temptation here might be to focus on Gavin’s lack of achievement.
Coach: This sounds awful, I guess you must be disappointed to have achieved so little.
Gavin: Yes I am – I must be a complete failure.
Coach: How does that make you feel?
Gavin: I feel absolutely terrible; it’s as if nothing I do makes a difference.
Coach: Has it always been like this for you?
Gavin: Yes, even when I was at school, the other kids picked on me and I never did well….
Here we appear to have dragged Gavin into a dismal down-slope of despair.

Option 2: A more solutions-focused way:  how might the conversation go if you pick one of these for continuing the conversation?

Coach:  Sounds tough for you:  when you look back over the past year at all the areas of your life for which you had resolutions, which areas have shown some signs of progress – even if only a little?
Coach: Sounds tough for you: I’m wondering if you look at the past year over all, when have things been slightly less bad?  Which month (or season) was best?  What was different about that one?
Coach: So you’ve watched all the re-runs of The Simpsons – what’s been your favourite episode?
Coach:  Mmm, what does that experience tell you about how useful New Years resolutions are to you?
Coach: Suppose this year, somehow it was different… and you started the year well, on track to achieving what you wanted, what would be the first signs of this?
Coach:  On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is the year has been a total and utter waste of time and you might as well have stayed in bed and 10 is that it was an OK year with some things going well…where would you place yourself on that scale?
Coach: If I asked your mother, friend, dog to tell me what you’ve achieved this year…what might they say?

Or finally…

Coach: Maybe you are right; it sounds like you’ll never achieve anything. How about you just give up and resign yourself to being a fat and lonely old man……
We wish you many prosperous and enjoyable ways out of your conundrums over the next 12 months.
Photo of Paul Z JacksonPhoto of Janine Waldman

As a coach, how often have you faced a difficult situation with a client when there appeared to be no way forward - or a choice of ways without it being clear which would be best?

Paul Z Jackson and Janine Waldman of The Solutions Focus share with us those moments when a coach has a tough choice of what to say or do during a session - and they offer some ideas for resolving the situation.

“Our view of what’s useful will reflect our own approach, which is to take a ‘solutions focus’. This is a pragmatic and minimal approach which unearths what a client wants, what resources they have available and then encourages them to take small steps in the desired direction,” say Paul and Janine.

“Of course, we can’t say for sure which approach or particular choice would be best in any given conundrum but we hope the advice offered will help coaches think about how they would respond in a similar situation. We also hope that this will stimulate debate amongst the coaching community, so if you want to suggest a different way of handling the given challenge, please add your comments.”

While each Coaching Conundrum is based on a real case, we will preserve the anonymity of all clients and their organisations.

If you’d like a live Coaching Conundrums event to develop the coaching skills in your organisation or team - including dramatised coaching sessions - please call Janine on 01727 840 340 or email [email protected]


No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!