Avoiding common coaching traps: five challenges you will face
ONE of the best definitions of leadership I have heard goes something like this: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of the leader’s presence and making sure that impact lasts in his absence.” Employee coaching challenges us to be a very unique kind of leader.
As managers of people, many of us have been in situations where senior management has asked us to step in and coach employees who have not responded well to the tasks required of them. Coaching is not the same as mentoring. By its nature, coaching is task-oriented, performance-driven and short-term, while mentoring is relationship-oriented, development-driven and long-term. From my perspective, coaching is more challenging, given the more limited amount of time to do it and its non-directive nature.
Challenge 1: The temptation to ‘spoon-feed’
It is easy for coaches to fall into the trap of giving instructions and closely directing the coachee through every step of a task or a change. It is essential to strike the right balance, allowing coachees themselves to arrive at the solutions to their problems while ma-king sure they stay on the right track and moving forward. This can be tricky. Asking leading questions may not be enough for coachees who lack the discernment skills to figure out what to do next.
Although coaching uses a non-directive approach, I believe there is no harm in shifting to a more directive approach from time to time if the coachee is not responsive. It may be helpful to present several options for solutions, making known the advantages and disadvantages of each and letting the coachee decide which is optimal. Once he or she gains more confidence, the approach can be shifted back to non-directive.
Challenge 2: Dependence
Some coachees can become too dependent on coaches, relying on them as substitutes to handle tasks they find too daunting. To address these situations, coa-ches must manage expectations from the very beginning. The coach/coachee roles & relationship must be made clear & explicit, reinforced during all coaching moments & conversations.
Challenge 3: Lack of coachee commitment
Some coachees are too complacent to grasp the benefits of coaching. They may find the exercise meaningless and will not commit to a coach/coachee relationship. Since coaching opportunities tend to originate from management or HR, coachees, lacking ownership of the process, may resign to go through the motions without fully understanding the responsibilities that go with it.
According to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, the new paradigm for employee development is no longer “carrots and sticks” but autonomy, mastery and purpose. Unearthing a coachee’s sense of purpose can trigger his or her interest & motivation to get the most out of a coaching opportunity.
Challenge 4: Poor or ineffective communication
If the coachee is unable to convey to the coach what he or she really wants and needs from the process, it will be impossible for successful coaching to progress. In these situations, the coach should attempt to understand and recognize which communication style and approach will work for this individual.
In multilingual Philippines, for example, coaching may be done in Tagalog-English or in the vernacular, but the most important element is the coach’s ability to get messages across in a simple, concise and understandable manner-minus the jargon-and ask the coachee how he or she understood the message. Active feedback is critical.
Challenge 5: Directionless coaching
When the coachee has no idea what he or she wants from the coaching relationship, the coach must take the lead to create a structure for success. But how do you start? What sort of format or framework should you use?
One option is the GROW model of coaching developed by performance coach Sir John Whitmore in the 1980s and perfected over the years by other coaching experts.
GROW stands for:
• Goals-what do you want?
• Reality-what is happening now?
• Options-what could you do?
• Will-what will you do?
Such a framework can save the day for coaches because it is a good guide for starting coaching conversations. The acronym and its meaning provide excellent talking points that are open-ended enough to discuss various areas that can complete the coaching cycle while not veering away from the main purpose of a coaching conversation. One can easily get back on track if he or she stays within the framework. A versatile coach can use the framework to ask follow-up questions and elicit deeper insights, preferences, needs and personal values from the coachee.
Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Indeed, coaching is a major responsibility for anyone who takes on the challenge, but the process and its benefits are central to a high-performing, people centered organization. HR’s primary strategic goal is to add value, and our creation of a coaching culture that promotes teamwork, pursuit of excellence and professionalism is one of the greatest values we can deliver.
The first ICF International Coaching Summit will be held in Manila on November 6 with Coaching and ROI as the main topic. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the power of coaching by attending the summit. (Please visit the www.icfsummit.com for more details.)
(This article appeared in the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) World Link, its official global publication, with Martha J. Frase as Editor. Ernie is the President of Human Resource (HR) Gabay Asia Pacific, Inc. He is a Board Member for 2014-2016 of two of the largest international HR federations in the world, the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) where he was President in 2008-2010, and the Asia Pacific Federation of Human Resource Management (APFHRM) where he was President in 2007-2008 and 2012-2014. He was the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) President in 2002 and PMAP’s recipient of the People Manager of the Year Award in 2006. He was Vice President HR of Energy Development Corporation and Fujitsu Computer Products Corporation of the Philippines. He can be reached at ernestogespinosa@ gmail.com)
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