2019, a year in coaching: perfectionists, risk takers and sceptics

Let’s all agree on two things: i) the coachee leads the session; ii) each individual you coach is exactly that – an individual. Are you with us?

So, what happens when groups of individuals share similarities? Over the course of 2019, Farscape found that there were three distinct groups of people who arrived for a coaching session: sceptics, perfectionists, and risk takers.

Shoe-horning coaching clients into a box is never going to work out well. Yet having an awareness of types can help to keep you focused as a coach and – paradoxically – focused on helping your client get the best outcome for them.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of the most frequent types of client we coached in 2019. From the first to the best, from the last to the worst – we take you through some of the most common types we coached this year.


Sceptics are the first group that became apparent. There’s probably a sceptic in your team, in your friendship group, in your family. Maybe it’s you! All things unknown are regarded by the sceptic with mistrust. And in a corporate environment, where people haven’t necessarily chosen to be coached, they are fairly common.


  • The sceptic doesn’t skip into the room – Nor are their hands tied. This is a common coaching scenario in the corporate world. Often people will be put forward, or coaching will be presented as an opportunity. And the sceptic will agree to take part – sometimes begrudgingly.
  • They tend to be self-reliant – The sceptic often doesn’t like to ask for help. They’ve got to where they are on their own and that isn’t going to change now, thank you very much. You may notice that they express the sentiment, directly or indirectly, that coaching is all very fluffy, that it doesn’t really work, and it’s not for them.

Our learning

It’s totally normal for people to feel sceptical. The best course of action is to respect the mindset that they’re in and hold the space for them.

We’ve also learned that when somebody is doubtful about the value of what you do, or whether you’re able to help them, it creates temptation on the part of the coach… The temptation to say, “Look at me, I’m a brilliant coach! Look at everything I can do to convince you…” Resisting that powerful urge is tough!

The perspective that coaches need to remember:

Don’t be tempted to try and win a sceptic over. That’s not your job. Stay with them, hold the space for them. After all, why wouldn’t they think like that? Remain present, and create the right conditions for them to have a breakthrough. You might find that backing off does just that.


Ah, perfectionists. Of all the ‘types’ that we come across in coaching, at first glance perfectionists appear to be the ‘best’. The hardest working employees. The most dedicated. The most open and committed to coaching. The perfectionist gives their everything to, well, everything. This group has brought us some of the world’s most remarkable gifts, from music to architecture, literature to technology. Yet perfectionism in the workplace is often a fast track to frustration and stasis.


  • Perfectionists are used to success – They value success and achievement in a traditional sense very highly. One hundred percent perfect is acceptable. Anything less than one hundred percent is really not okay.
  • They struggle to adapt to a work world – The world of work definitely isn’t perfect. And when the work environment is in conflict with their values, perfectionists find it draining.
  • They tend to be in junior or middle management – People reach a stage where they simply do not have the space, the time or the energy to do everything they need to do at the level of precision they’d like. This causes issues for them and those around them.

Our learning

The coach’s job is to help perfectionists create a realistic not an idealistic panorama. Be careful of inadvertently giving the impression that coaching will provide a quick fix. If they arrive with this notion, let them be under no illusion that you can help them be perfect all of the time.

Coaches can help perfectionists to be comfortable where they were previously uncomfortable. Primarily, that means helping them come to the realisation and to accept that eighty percent is alright from time to time!

The perspective that coaches need to remember:

Perfection doesn’t exist. Not in coaching nor in life. And for people who are chasing the perfection which is never going to be attainable, especially when they have other people to work with or they’re managing a team or juggling expectations, they’ll quickly become frustrated. Getting things done puts the perfectionist in a much more powerful position than seeking the impossible.

Risk takers

The last group of note, perhaps because they are often the least common in the corporate world, are risk takers.


  • These people move at one hundred miles per hour, all the time – They have a lot of ideas, they want to act on those ideas, and they want to act on them now.
  • They care very passionately about their ideas – Risk takers recognise not only what is broken, they see how to make it better. They have a grand vision for where they want to take the organisation and they can’t wait to get there.
  • Risk takers can struggle to get buy-in – They wonder why the rest of the world – including the people around them – is five years behind.
  • They’re unaware of the collateral damage their behaviour causes – Having a unique perspective can mean that they fail to see the way others do; this difference of viewpoint can cause tension.

Our learning

For lots of people, constantly moving so fast, lurching from one idea to the next, is exhausting. Some people want to see an idea through to completion, let it settle in and analyse how it performs, before moving on to the next thing. This is the antithesis of the risk taker, and it’s where problems arise. When people who aren’t risk takers are constantly tasked with new ideas, new directions and new initiatives, without ever finishing one, it’s incredibly draining for them. That’s collateral damage.

On the other hand, the innovative quality is one of risk takers’ greatest assets. The point isn’t to stamp that out, it’s to bring awareness to how that quality is perceived. By helping risk takers understand how other people in the business view their behaviour, we help raise their awareness of how other people see the world. A breakthrough for a risk taker is the realisation that other people aren’t stubborn or awkward or uncaring for the organisation’s future. Slowly, we’ve seen risk takers realise that characteristics they perceived as ‘boring’ or ‘backward-looking’ are useful in helping to bring their ideas to life.

The perspective that coaches need to remember:

Risk takers naturally want to chase the next great idea. Helping them to maintain that level of innovation and energy, whilst taking everybody with them on the journey, is a key factor in the coaching of risk takers.

And the worst ‘group’ we as coaches allow ourselves to see?

As coaches, the worst thing we can do is to view people as a homogenous group and to treat them in that way. If we only think of coaching clients as one type or another, we risk turning individuals into a faceless, nameless crowd.

And that’s not on the people we work with. That’s firmly on us as coaches.

When we see only types and not individuals, we do our clients a disservice. This article isn’t intended to be a handbook or a definitive guide, it’s simply a recollection of patterns we have noticed. So please, next time you’re coaching a client and you recognise a behaviour, make note. Mentally bookmark it, highlight it, underline it… and then, move on. Open your eyes and ears to the person standing before you – not the person you think you see.

What are your experiences of coaching – and L&D more broadly – in 2019? Have you become aware of any trends or patterns? We’d be intrigued to hear what you’ve noticed and what that means for your organisation in 2020. Contact Farscape on 0117 370 1800; we welcome the opportunity of a conversation.

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