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"What's wrong with giving advice?"

This blog is intended for coaches and trainee coaches looking to deepen their capability and confidence in coaching.


Our clients bring issues they want to address, area in which they feel stuck or goals they wish to achieve and it can be tempting to offer well-meaning advice - indeed sometimes they outright ask for it. Why is it important to resist?

Firstly, from the perspective of the ICF, although advising is not considered unethical per se, it may give rise to 'dual roles' which are tricky to navigate. Imagine your client follows advice and suffers some type of loss. The possibility of liability and lawsuits is something coaching bodies rightly want to help us avoid, both for our own sake and the industry as a whole.

Secondly, offering solutions risks robbing our client of insights and building more agency and capability in their lives. If a 'solution' to what ails them seems so obvious to us, a valuable question to ask ourselves is 'what about the client's way of seeing the world means that it is not obvious to them?' This line of enquiry may help a client better see more of their own 'operating system'.

A client who wouldn't dream of asking for help or information from others, for example, presents us with an opportunity to unpack stories and assumptions about making requests, what it means to be supported, their relationships with others etc. Ultimately our aim in developmental coaching is increasing a client's self knowledge and ability to see new possibilities throughout their lives, not just find specific solutions, even good ones, for the issue of the day.

Thirdly, we may rely on advice-giving as a 'crutch' that constrains our development as coaches. Going for the quick fix can be a temptation to avoid being with clients in deeper explorations that may require more subtlety, skill and emotional capacity from us.

Finally, the more we offer advice and solutions, the more we may unconsciously accrue power in the relationship, specifically 'expert power'. This undermines our goal of developing the mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual freedom of expression on which a coaching relationship relies and instead may create a sense of dependency in our client rather than growing their sense of co-creativity and capacity.

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