In spite of training on coaching skills for managers, not many are actually initiating coaching conversations with people. There are some misconceptions and barriers that stop them, from what I’ve observed in my work.
According to John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow (McGraw-Hill Education, 2010), managers usually cite lack of time as the main excuse for failing to coach employees, but the real reasons may be different.
Misconceptions of What Coaching Is
Some managers are not clear what they’re supposed to do when they coach. Skilled managers initiate coaching conversations so their people can explore what they do and how they do it. Coaching expands employee awareness, uncovers better solutions, and allows employees to make and implement sound decisions.
Coaching provides a safe platform for growth. Successful managers consciously choose growth as a priority outcome. They understand that developing people is as important as getting things done.
Coaching isn’t instructing, mentoring, counseling, cheerleading, therapy or directing, although there are some similarities. Coaching skills include:
- Clarifying an interaction’s outcome and agreeing to a conversation’s goal
- Listening to what is—and isn’t—said
- Asking non-leading questions to expand awareness
- Exploring possibilities, consequences, actions and decisions
- Eliciting a desired future state
- Establishing goals and expectations, including stretch goals
- Providing support
- Following up on progress
- Setting accountability agreements
Managers must be non-directive, listen intently and ask the right questions. Coach training emphasizes supporting people, with an eye toward challenging them.
As a manager, you’re tasked with bringing out the best in people, including high performance and bottom-line results. When you take up the coaching baton, performance goals must share the stage with employee growth and development.
Many managers struggle to balance direction and support. They’re usually afraid of making mistakes, so they revert to telling employees what to do instead of coaching them.