How To Know If You’re “Getting Through” As A Coach

Tuned Out of coachingBy John Burwell, Jr, Service & Sales Coach

I was recently asked the question, "When coaching, how do you know if you are reaching the person?"

If we were to base the answer to that question solely on the what the person we're coaching tells us we might think we're reaching them 100% of the time. However, when coaching  to correct a behavior or improve a result most people will give you "lip service" to get the session over as soon as possible. That's where non-verbal signals became critical indicators. The non-verbals don't lie.

Body language to watch for:

1. Crossing Arms: may indicate that the person has checked out, is not open to the coaching and you may find that their words contradict their behavior.

2. Blank Stare/Blank Expression: may be an indication that they either don't understand what's being asked of them or they have no intention of carrying out the request. This could be defiance, or it could be lack of caring.

3. Lack of eye contact: generally indicates a lack of engagement and commitment. When someone won't look at you they likely are not willing or able to go along with what is being asked of them.

To effectively coach in a situation where your team member shows signs of disengaging it's important that you learn why. Ask questions to discover what's got them side ways with the information you're going over or the corrective action you're encouraging. Call them out on the behavior letting them know that you recognize it. For example: "I notice that you're sitting with your arms crossed and not looking at me. In my experience that usually means you're not buying it. Tell me what about this conversation has you uncomfortable."

A word of caution here, you may experience defensive behavior from the team member. Be careful not to let their defensiveness set you off. Going through their anger and defensiveness will ultimately help you get to what the core challenge is.

3 steps for moving through the conflict

1. Empathize: Let them know you recognize how the situation may be uncomfortable for them and that their fears are real to them.

2. Ask Questions to clarify for yourself and for them. It's possible that they don't even fully understand what might be at the core of their concern. Good questions will help set you both up for #3.

3. Solution: Identify together the specific action required to correct a behavior or improve a result. By coming to a mutual agreement you may find a solution even more effective than the one you had intended. Sometimes the core of a conflict has nothing to do with the immediate situation but rather some external influence.


Recognizing the gestures and then working through the 3 steps will improve your coaching effectiveness and more importantly the desired results.

  • Ed O’Connell

    Just getting started as a business (as well as health) coach and would like to thank you for your articles. They are not only informative and helpful but I recommend them to my clients.

    At some point in growing smaller companies (0 to 10) — which I specialize in and seem to gave terrific success — I am thinking of promoting my clients to your company as a way of helping them move on past the point where I don’t have the expertise to help them.

    If anyone in Kenny’s outfit has the time or interest in this idea I may be contacted @ or my home/office: 415/453-2291.

    As an aside, I know Kenny personally, have spoken at an SRT “Success Day” with him, and, to say the least, was impressed. I may be older (70), but I’m still full of piss-‘n-vinegar which is why I guess I like his style. I’m in this coaching arena now to “give back” but earning more bucks, even substantial $’s, at my age is also a real kick.

    Keep me in the loop if this gets thru to anyone.


    Ed O’Connell (Owner Emeritus, O’Connell Plumbing, Inc.; SRT Consultant; & Small Sub-contracting Business Coach)


    Sorry for the delayed response from this. We had a glitch in our system and were not being notified about when we received comments. I’m glad we got to speak about this at the International Roundtable and I’m really glad you’re writing and coaching in this great industry now! We’ll send you all the smaller guys and we’d love to help you help them with our video training membership which is such a low barrier of entry and full of value for training themselves and technicians in the upfront pricing based service call system. Look forward to seeing you again soon my friend. Keep up the great mission. You inspire me!

    My very best,