‘Coaching’​- Excuses and Escapes!

Coaching is an important leadership skill, and although the approach to coaching are still vague and varied, most organizations have come to the conclusion that coaching is valuable.

Having said that, our research and everyday observation indicates that employees aren’t receiving valuable coaching and that many managers believe they aren’t prepared to adequately coach.

This doesn’t mean that people aren’t receiving any form of coaching. They are. Yet a very rare number of people being coached see any significant value or impact on their performance.

What goes wrong and what can be done about it?

Managers are generally overworked, overcommitted — and mostly overwhelmed. Now, to ask them to coach is adding to the pain. It appears as an added task, and managers would naturally do whatever they can to avoid it.

Having said that, it’s not that managers don’t want to coach. But the idea that coaching needs to be a formal transaction that demands a manager to carve out an hour from business priorities is where the buck stops.

Here is the relief. The matter of fact is that coaching doesn’t need to take extra time, nor an additional task. It shouldn’t be like trying to add more water to an already full glass. Rather, it should be like adding a flavor to it.

The idea is to turn everyday conversations into 10-minutes-or-less coaching conversations — anywhere. Coaching is simply moments of insight.

Now of course simplicity needs mastery. Managers need to have the skills that will enable such coaching conversations. And the easiest way to assist managers become more coach-like is to get them asking more questions. Simple questions. Intelligent questions.

It goes without saying that most managers think really high of themselves. Some of us may think we’ve mastered the art of asking questions. The truth is, questioning is the most underrated and least practiced managerial skill. Often, we pretend to ask questions when we’re actually just finding space to give our expert [and mostly unsolicited] advice. Beware of questions that starts like:

  • ‘Have you thought of …?’ or
  • ‘What about …?’ or
  • ‘Did you consider …?’ or
  • ‘What if …?

These are simply advices, using the punctuation of question mark.

This skills is further glamorized with fake empathetic listening. We know the trick… nod your head, dance your brows, add some ‘hmmm’. This natural, birth-given right to offer advice must go. A study found that, for physicians meeting with patients, the average time to interruption was 18 seconds. Don’t think it’s specific to doctors. Take feedback about yourself from your spouse or child or friend.

We’re all guilty here. The intent may be good, but it’s not helping. The solution is in learning to be lazy.

Being lazy can help you. It kills the urge to rush into action. Instead of offering precise solutions in the name of suggestions, hold back and offer up space for your team members to talk and come up with their own solutions. The beauty of asking question is in shutting up after asking question and waiting for the answer. The magic is in making your team members responsible for finding solutions.

So, be lazy and stay curious.

Having a coach-like managers is never accidental. You can’t just tell managers to be coach-like and hope for the best. You need to help managers see how coaching can be useful for them as well as for their employees — and how asking more questions, withdrawing the desire to give advice and being curious can help them.

Get your managers trained on coaching.

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Sohail Zindani

Disruptor, Happiness Enthusiast, Strengths Revolutionist, Leadership & Innovation Consultant, Author, Founder, Learning Minds