Effective Coaching…

If coaching is so effective why don’t managers do more of it?

When I run coaching programmes for managers they often arrive “bought in” to the idea of coaching. These days they don’t need convincing of the benefits, they are increasingly likely to have experienced being coached themselves, having read about it, or having received some training.

However, when it comes to the part in the programme where we consider what is going to get in the way of fully transferring and implementing their coaching skills these are some of the barriers that frequently arise:

  • Lack of time
  • Fear of seeming contrived e.g. “Oh I can tell you’ve just been on a course”
  • Lack of confidence in skills
  • Lack of organisational support  i.e. organisation rewards results over time spent developing staff
  • Feeling expertise/status under threat. Due to asking questions rather than giving answers
  • Fear that team members won’t accept coaching
  • Lack of opportunity to coach, especially in geographically dispersed teams

If you are aware of similar issues slowing you down or standing in the way of coaching your staff more often this may help.

Many of the barriers, e.g. lack of time, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, stem from a belief that coaching is only really coaching when it is formal, structured, diarised and lasts an hour. That just isn’t the case. Every interaction is a coaching opportunity and a chance to develop your skills and confidence.

This approach also deals with the fears about people rejecting the coaching approach or feeling it is “being done to them” as a result of your attendance on a course.  You can choose to take a quiet, incremental approach to implementing coaching. For example, setting yourself a target to practice active listening in situations you know you find difficult for one week. You might follow this by focusing on asking effective questions where you would normally issue instructions, for a week. These small action steps taken consciously and consistently would effectively develop and sustain your skills and be unlikely to lead to objections from your team members. Who would object to being listened to well and asked for their thoughts, ideas and suggestions?

So, while other blocks to implementation may be more complex, if you consciously choose to look at each conversation as an opportunity for coaching, keep it front of mind, and recognise that 3 minutes of quality listening can be far more effective than a longer period of on/off listening you will overcome these barriers, and develop and sustain the coaching approach that you already know is such an effective part of your management toolkit.

I would love to hear more about what might be getting in the way of coaching your staff and what strategies you have found that work well for you.

7 Responses to Effective Coaching…

  • Hi Julie,

    for me a coach is most effective when the client or coachee feels like they came up with all the answers and perhaps feels like they haven’t been ‘coached’ at all. Then they ‘own’ the transformation – the sad news is that it can happen that these clients end up feeling so empowered that they underestimate how much the coach has actually done for them (but a good coach should be able to live with that ;-)).

    I like the part of it in your article which said ‘You’ve obviously been on a coaching course’ and the conversation about whether someone feels they ‘need’ coaching. So much of this depends upon context. I have had a few senior clients ask me for ‘help & advice’ in the past when actually what they were asking for was coaching.

    take care,

  • An interesting discussion is worth comment. I do think that you need to write read more about this topic, may possibly not even be a taboo subject but generally men and women are the perfect to communicate on such topics. Yet another. Cheers

  • There’s some great points here Julie. I think the more informal coaching opportunities often go unidentified, perhaps sometimes because of a misunderstanding what coaching is/can be.

    It doesn’t need both people to label the conversation as coaching for it to be beneficial. When I worked as a trainer in the corporate world I would often end up having a coaching conversation on the stairs, in the break room, over lunch etc. I doubt few would have recorded the conversation as a “coaching session” but they could still leave it with new answers and ideas 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Jen. It’s true that although we are both coaches and therefore familiar with the more formal, diarised coaching sessions, that doesn’t de-value the impact of informal, “water cooler” type coaching conversations. Especially for managers for whom coaching is one tool in their management toolbox, that they may not be fully utlising due to waiting for the “right” time and the “right” circumstances.

      Thanks for contributing your insights and experience.

  • Good blog item Julie.

    I am sure that it is like many things, making it a priority. Sometimes it seems like managing and people is one of those things that gets pushed down the pile.

    As a result, the opportunity to motivate staff and support their development is lost.

    Duncan Brodie

  • Absolutely Geoff. I often find it is quite a stretch for managers to move from autobiographical listening (from their own frame of reference) to the global, intuitive listening you describe. It is well worth the commitment to develop those skills, as it has so many benefits, including building trusting, open relationships and also providing the opportunity to learn valuable insights from the people who are closest to the customers.

  • Well said Julie. I often compare coaching to Performance Management in that so often it can be seen as something that is done in a fomral dedicated session, whereas it tends to be more effective informally at the time that the opportunity suggests itself. That said, the coach may well need to develop their capability in more formal sessions as part of the journey to unconscious competence.

    I love the idea of first practising good listening, the times when i have felt really lilstened to have been a privilege and a pleasure. Listen not only for the words but for the feeling as well, for the gaps between the words.

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