What Coaching Is and Isn't

Apr 21, 2017 | ARTICLE

I have had the opportunity to coach management individuals during my work as an executive coach. What has become apparent to me is the lack of understanding that some might have about what coaching is and how it differs from other leadership development tools.

From what I've experienced though, coaching seems to be gaining in popularity among motivated managers who seek the individual and organizational growth that can result from a positive coaching relationship.

What Coaching Is

An efficient, high-impact process that helps high-performing leaders improve results that are sustainable, coaching:

Involves short meetings that generate important insights and helps an individual gain clarity and focus, as well as make decisions to improve performance.

Is a dialogue where high-performing people need support to perform even better.

Has the goal of improving results in ways that are sustainable over time. Managers want outcomes, career success, organizational effectiveness, and career and personal satisfaction. It is about helping people improve their own capabilities and effectiveness so that results and improvements last.

Allows a leader to get from point A to point B. The coach intervenes and provides advice, when appropriate, and customizes a tool or solution that works for the leader's unique situation.

Works one-on-one with individuals to encourage them to make difficult decisions, step out of their comfort zone, stop destructive behavior, embrace change, and shift performance.

What Coaching Is Not

And, at the other end of the spectrum, coaching is not:

  • Therapy meant to fix someone. The emphasis is on helping a healthy individual overcome challenges and be more effective. Coaching is asking powerful questions that inquire why people behave the way they do.
  • The same thing as management. Coaches are not going to step in to do the job for someone. The coach is a "shadow leader," working behind the scenes to help a person succeed and improve.
  • Consulting. The primary focus is not to analyze and make recommendations. When appropriate and at the right time, coaches can add value by sharing observations and insights. Coaching is more about having people develop their own insights and then take action to improve results. Coaching is not a crystal ball that magically provides an answer.
  • Training or teaching that focuses on sharing knowledge and best practices. The teaching process usually occurs in a classroom setting and the trainer/teacher leads the session.
  • Mentoring. Mentors are seasoned professionals who can show less-experienced professionals methods of how to do things. Many mentors, however, also can play the role of coach, and many coaches can have years of experience to share with the people they are coaching.
  • Progressive discipline. Organizations might use coaching for this reason, which can cause it to be seen negatively. Coaching should be seen as a standard leadership development tool and an investment in the talent the organization wants to develop and retain.

Traits of Coachable Managers

The leader who seeks out coaching will have these five unique attributes:

Commitment to continuous learning and improvement. Coaches enjoy working with people who want to get better and seek ongoing improvement.

High aspirations that are exciting and often lead to great things. Leaders who seek out a coach usually have ambitious goals and want to see great things happen. They hold themselves accountable for achieving their goals, including ongoing gains in performance.

Sense of possibility in themselves and the potential for personal greatness, as well as the potential in those around them. This sense of possibility makes them more attractive to others and gets people aligned toward a common goal.

Vulnerability in ways that allow them to bypass other leaders. It is not easy to actually learn the truth about how we come across to others compared with how we hope to come across to others. It is not easy to hear feedback from our colleagues and then resolve to improve.

It is not easy to allow give-and-take when pushing an idea forward rather than win at all costs. This vulnerability ultimately leads to improved results, relationships, and success. By being able to have just enough vulnerability, effective leaders are able to learn, grow, and get better.

Flexibility in how they get results, which gives them more options. Coaching can often help leaders develop new approaches to handle different situations.

Leaders who are coachable understand the need to be flexible and have a range of styles and approaches for different people and different situations. This allows them to lead more naturally and authentically, rather than relying on long-standing patterns that make them rigid.

What Coaching Can Accomplish

From the perspective of the routine and daily work environment, coaching can help a leader:

  • Reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed—by workload, by complicated and lengthy assignments, by difficult employees, and by power-hungry supervisors.
  • Be able to deal with the frustrations that occur in the workplace with other supervisors and with employees.
  • Manage the sometimes lack of clarity that is provided by the governing board or a supervisor.
  • Get things done effectively and efficiently, in a timely manner, and meet the expectations of the participants and the recipients.
  • Have some measure of success in a new role that will enhance the work environment and have some measure of future success.
  • Look good in his or her role, have fewer headaches in a role, and advance a career with matching compensation growth.



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