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Why Great Leaders Fail to Become Great Consultants

Scott Ritzheimer February 28, 2022

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Why Great Leaders Fail to Become Great Consultants

You got into coaching to be a coach. But if you find yourself spending more time coaxing prospect than you do coaching clients, it’s not your fault. You have found yourself caught in what I call the Doom Loop. And every coach finds themselves here at some point, especially as we grow and succeed.

You finally did it! After years of grinding it out in a full-time job or hustling to build your own business, you decided it was time to start adding value to others, and the best way to do that was to coach, consult and train.

But once you started, you realized things aren’t quite what they appeared to be. And after months or even years in your new advisory business, it’s anything but what you imagined.

You got into coaching it to help others succeed, but your experience turned out to be quite different. Somehow all the success in business you’ve enjoyed isn’t translating to success building your new coaching business.

You found yourself spending more time marketing, selling, and preparing for sessions than you did in the actual sessions. In other words, you weren’t a coach. Instead, you were a marketer, a sales rep, and an administrative assistant that just happened to coach from time to time.

Some coaches I speak with who were coaching on the side before going full-time found themselves coaching less as a “full-time” coach than they did when it was just a side hobby.

No one wants that. You got into coaching to be a coach. But if you find yourself spending more time coaxing prospects than you do coaching clients, it’s not your fault.

You have found yourself caught in what I call the Doom Loop. And every coach finds themselves here at some point, especially as we grow and succeed.

So, let me explain three ways that coaches at each stage of their coaching journey get stuck in the Doom Loop.

The three mistakes

Mistake #1: The Master of None

One of the biggest mistakes I see new, and even veteran, coaches make is coming across as a jack of all trades. For example, they will meet someone while networking who highlights their need for sales training, and they’ll respond, “I can help with that.”

Then, a friend will refer a prospect who has issues with staffing and systems. Of course, they can help with that too.

It’s even worse when prospective clients ask what they can help with, often responding with a fire hose of options, overwhelming the prospect, and devaluing each hard-earned skill in the eyes of the listener.

I call this the “everyone coach.” 

The truth is, their lifetime of experience and exceptional talents has afforded them the ability to help with so much. The trouble is, without limiting their scope, they’ll get to support very few and even less at the dollars they deserve.

I know it sounds counterintuitive. But the secret to higher rates, more clients, and a far less stressful life as a coach is specializing.

Shelly is an excellent example of this.

She loved business, and she loved people. So, having been taught to follow her passion, she took a chance and went out on her own as a consultant. She created a website, posted on social media, called friends and past colleagues, and attended local networking events. But landing enough engagements to break even proved way more complicated than she imagined.

She had to hustle and grind big time. She needed the revenue so severely that she constantly found herself pushing prospects, trying to convince them she could help (no matter what their problem was), and fighting on price again and again.

And once she sold something, the stress climbed even higher. Because most engagements were one-off issues, she used all her spare time planning and writing the curriculum (and not getting paid for any of it).

When we met, she was exhausted and had even started looking at local job listings, wondering how she could give up on her dream and go back to working for someone else.

On our first call, I helped Shelly see that she didn’t need to be everything to everyone; instead, she needed to specialize. And I helped her quickly discover where her heart and skills aligned and focus solely on that specialty. She then went out and made a few minor changes to her conversation, her social media posts, and a couple of sentences on her website, and everything changed. Within a few days, she landed the biggest engagement she ever had. It was a stunning success. She knocked it out of the park for the client, they got a significant return on their investment, she had a blast, and she got three referrals who hired her to help them precisely the same way. It was a major turning point for her business.

Today, she’s leading a thriving consultancy and has even had to hire to keep up with the demand. Her clients love her, and she loves what she does. She told me she has to pinch herself to make sure she’s not dreaming the last time we spoke. She is way less stressed. She’s making more money than ever. She’s got more control over her schedule. And she gets to cherrypick the very best clients she wants to work with. After as hard as those early days were, it all feels too good to be true. But, it is true, and she’s going to be succeeding for a very long time!

Mistake #2: The Improv Act

You would not believe the number of coaches I see making this mistake. They have so much experience, vast knowledge, and great intentions, but they don’t have a plan.

So, They show up to a consultation and ask, “What can I help you with today?” Then, they make it up as they go pulling random bits and pieces from their own experience or from books they’ve read. Often this is great advice because they are genuinely good problem solvers.

I get it. That is what it takes to be a great leader in an organization. It’s what brought them success in the past.

Here’s the problem.

Your clients don’t need an answer. They need a plan. Improvising on the spot works ok when you are doing it yourself, but that’s not an approach anyone wants to pay for.

Your clients don’t need an answer. They need a plan. Improvising on the spot works ok when you are doing it yourself, but that’s not an approach anyone wants to pay for.CLICK TO TWEETI call this the “what’s up? coach” because that’s how they start just about every session (especially in an engagement that lasts more than six months).

They are left reactively firefighting their clients’ problems (which usually makes things worse), not proactively helping them get to where they knew where they promised the clients. This is especially bad if they already made mistake #1 and have all kinds of clients who all need something different.

The way to turn this around is by using a structured approach. Using a proven system that you know works will give you greater confidence, require less prep time between sessions, be easier to sell, and give your clients better results (allowing you to charge more for your services!).

You will absolutely wow your clients when you can not only bring a solution for their current problems but also help them solve their future problems before they even hit.

That’s what Matt does every day. But it wasn’t always that way.

When he first launched his coaching business, he got off to a quick start.

Matt found it easy to leverage his past successes and strong corporate relationships to get great deals that paid well. As a result, he landed several prominent clients in his first month as a full-time consultant.

Unfortunately, it was only a few sessions in that the cracks started to show.

See, Matt was a classic “what’s up? coach.” As soon as they sat down, he’d ask the client what challenges they were experiencing. Then, within minutes he saw the solution and mapped out a plan of attack.

While the clients were initially excited to get such direct and actionable help, they soon realized that his support fixed the issue of the day, but he had no plan for moving them forward.

One of his rather candid clients called him on it after a group session.

He said, “Matt, the first three sessions were great. We made real progress as a team. But since then, it feels like we’ve gone off the map, and it’s not working.”

It wasn’t before long that Matt’s best clients started dropping like flies, and Matt, freaking out, picked up the phone and called me.

I helped him see it wasn’t his ability they questioned but his lack of strategic direction. They wanted a man with a plan, not just a man with a solution.

Together we mapped out his session plans for his remaining clients and brought them all together into one comprehensive structure, which also meant, like Shelly, putting boundaries on what he could help with and what he wouldn’t help with.

Soon, he started to see a massive change in the engagement and energy of his remaining clients as their companies began growing faster than ever. There was a buzz in the community about what Matt was doing for their businesses, and today Matt is completely booked solid.

I had a chance to catch up with him recently on Zoom, and he was grinning from ear to ear. He told me how he used to finish the session with a client and then collapse on his couch afterward. At the time, he told himself it was a righteous exhaustion from a hard day’s work, but the truth was it was robbing time from his wife and three kids. However, because he’s using the same system every time, he finishes his session energized and has plenty leftover in the tank each day for his family.

Mistake #3: The Overstay

Have you ever had a party at your house? I have come to dread these because if you aren’t careful, you end up inviting that one person who doesn’t get the hint that the party is over (even though everyone else left 3 hours ago).

We invite the person because they are the life of the party. They’re so much fun to be around – until they aren’t. And then you just can’t find an easy way to get rid of them.

You start by taking all the dishes from the table. Then you start loading the dishwasher. Then you tidy up the chairs. Then you turn off the lights in a few rooms. Then you walk over to the front door.
But they are still there, having a good ol’ time.

Then you wake up the next morning and find them passed out on your couch.
That may be ok in college. But it’s not ok as a coach. Yet, I see even the most seasoned coaches make this mistake.

And it breaks my heart because it creates a lose-lose situation for everyone involved, it leaves a bad taste in the client’s mouth, and it gives our profession a bad name.

Here’s how it happens

Our coach, who, even if they avoided the first two mistakes, has now found themselves in an unfortunate spot.

They did the hard work of finding a client who fit their zone of genius. They delivered phenomenal results. But then they made a huge mistake and had no idea it happened.

Those results meant their clients grew. And as they grew, they faced a new set of challenges. A set of challenges far outside the coach’s zone of genius. They fall back into becoming just another coaching improv act and will find themselves yet another master of none if they keep it up.

They will typically notice it eventually, but they’ll think to themselves, “Oh, the client must be getting value out of it. Otherwise, they would have said something.”

But that’s not how it works. Instead, the client quietly (and often unknowingly) starts to resent the coach and may even dread seeing their next session on the calendar. They may drop a few hints, but they don’t say a thing more often than not. And this goes on until it ends poorly with a painful and embarrassing parting of ways.

If you’re not stopping regularly to assess whether you are the right coach for your clients, I guarantee you’re making this mistake, and costing you dearly.

Instead of serving your clients, the relationship changes, and your clients are there to pay you.

You are overstaying your usefulness.

This is especially tempting if it is hard for you to find new clients. You can’t afford to lose a client. So you hold on too long and will do anything to keep the engagement going.

I call this this “freeloader coach” because they end up taking more than they are giving, just like that friend you found on your couch when you got up the following morning.

Imposter syndrome kicks in; they feel like a fraud and are afraid that their inadequacy will be uncovered and the whole house of cards will collapse.

There’s good news. The solution is surprisingly simple. You need to structure your engagements to end on a high.

And, to end on a high, you either need to stop your engagements when your plan runs out, or you need to extend your skills and capacity to create a long-term plan.

In either case, ending on a high leaves your clients satisfied and enthusiastic about your services leading to more ideal clients down the road.

Brian learned this the hard way.

His engagements would start strong, everyone would be excited, but then it would just sort of taper off from there. Then, after a few months, he would start showing up for sessions and just repeating the same things. He knew he was overstaying his welcome.

But his customers were “kind” and didn’t say anything. And that made him feel even worse. He felt like an imposter and lived constantly worried that his clients were going to fire him.

When Brian called me, we worked together to structure his engagements to end on a high. I also gave him some additional training and resources that dramatically extended the value he could provide to his clients.

Now, Brian can lose a client at any time and not skip a beat. He’s got a full roster of great clients, who are getting a ton of value from him, and he’s having the time of his life.

Where do we go from here?

Chances are you’re making at least one of these mistakes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of coaches do.

But it’s my mission to help coaches realize that by fixing these three problems, they can build a brilliant consultancy where they get work from their zone of genius to help their clients generate incredible results.

When you stop making mistakes, you’ll find you can get paid more by clients who genuinely appreciate the value you bring.

That is why I put together a training video course on how to permanently solve these three problems. You can access it for free here.

However, if you’re looking to cut the learning curve and open yourself up to a proven system that will do the heavy lifting for you, then I’d love the opportunity to share with you the Predictable Success model and how it has consistently helped consultants escape the Doom Loop and build the career of their dreams!

Learn more at

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