Help your coachee realize his Impossible Future


The “Impossible Future” is a concept which Robert Hartgrove describes in his book “Masterful coaching” and can be reformulated as a very ambitious goal, a big challenge.

Too often we lay stretch targets which are too easy to reach. You have to work a bit harder or a bit different to get there, but there’s nothing fundamental changed in your approach or behavior. Because of this, the stretch targets can be considered as a Predictable Future. The concept of the “Impossible Future” is used to let your coachee think about realizing more than his Predictable Future and see how coaching can get him there.

Let’s take a closer look at it.

What’s the Impossible Future?

Currently, your coachee is in the “now” state, expressed by the house in the picture. His current habits and behavior took him so far and he knows it’s working what he doing.  If we create a stretch target for him, expressed by the second house in the picture, he will have to change his behavior, his approach, etc. a bit, but probably still can reach the target.

Compare it with the Hawthorne effect: changing behavior because you’re just paying attention to it.

If we create an Impossible Future for him to realize, expressed by the castle in the picture, his current behavior and approach won’t get him there. A radical change is needed, expressed by the “new me” in the picture.

The Impossible Future

The Impossible Future

Your task as coach

Your coachee needs to be a bigger version of himself and you need to help him with it. Hartgrove describes in his book an approach that has worked for me in real life:

  1. Help the coachee imagine that he currently stands in the Impossible Future to find out what got him there.
  2. Let him describe the leader which he has to be in the Impossible Future:
    1. Which characteristics does he need?
    2. Which behavior does he need (to model)?
    3. What is the gap between him as current leader and his future me?
    4. As a coach, find out how you can get him there. What is your added value? How much of your time does your coachee need for it?

When you have your target leader(ship behavior), you can create an action plan for it: which steps are you going to take to realize that future target? Which are the intermediary milestones?

Road block: the Possible Future

If you define an Impossible Future that is not challenging enough, it will be no problem for your coachee to make a big change. He knows that it’s possible without major changes, without really leaving his comfort zone, and it will become his Predictable Future.

But what if it really seems impossible?

Ok, the target seems impossible, but let’s find out anyway to see what you need (to change) to get there.

Examples of Impossible Futures

  • Become product leader in your industry.
  • Deliver the same value to you customer with 30% fewer resources.
  • Become the top of mind brand in the finance industry.

Additional reading

Masterful Coaching by Robert Hartgrove

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