What is coaching?

Coaching is behavior intended to enable another person to develop, improve or correct something which is not working. Coaching also can enable someone to be more creative, get unstuck or resolve a current or ongoing challenge. Coaching can enable someone to make a better decision, work through a conflict or improve a relationship.

When is the best time to coach?

The best time is just before a person needs it! Many times when in the middle of a crisis, a challenge, an emergency, it can be difficult to listen to others even when the other person is asking questions to assist with positive intention. Too many managers learned the wrong way to enable people to grow and do well. They learned to give direction, much advice, and either reward or punish based on the result. Anyone can do this. This does not take much skill or training. It also doesn’t always get the best results.

The difference between coaching and behavior management

Coaching starts with good intention.Coaching is about enabling another person to solve a challenge, think from a new perspective, be more creative, get unstuck and so on. Behavior management assumes that a person will only be motivated to develop or solve a challenge if there is a reward or challenge behind this. This is flawed logic and only might work short term and for those people who don’t enjoy their work. Despite this management approach which was adopted widely as a result of unproven tests with animals in the 1960’s this remains the most used approach in the workplace and, sadly, in the schools today. Behavior management is short term, doesn’t teach long term learning and worse sets up a power hierarchy (boss vs. employee) vs. partnership at work.

How do you know if coaching is working?

This is the hard part. As a manager, you have to teach yourself to slow down and observe people and their behaviors, both verbal and non-verbal. As a result of coaching, see if people are able on their own to do more effective work, make better decisions, solve more challenges? It is far easier to quickly reward or punish. This is lazy management. The leader in any system influences the behavior of those in the system. If you want robots, use behavior management.

What happens when people are coached?

Many things. When people are coached they feel being appreciated. They also recognize that their manager is interested in their development and well-being. They solve more challenges, feel better about their work, are easier to work with, and are more productive.

An example of coaching

Imagine you have a person who is always late to work. In your environment, this causes an issue since people are working on teams. One approach would be to simply tell the person that if this behavior continues, a person will be fired. Scared, the person for a while might show up on time. But what lesson did the manager teach? Nothing but fear.

A better approach would be to have a meeting and let that person know that he or she is valued and the team depends on him or her. Explain what the effect is when this person is late on the rest of the team. Then ask the person, if there is a reason for being always late? What might this person do to ensure starting to arrive on time? Let him or her know you would like to meet in a week to review this situation. In this case, the person will see the need to self-correct. This employee will appreciate the coaching without threats and long term will be equipped to solve these types of issues on its own before issues arise. The management skeptics will suggest this is too soft. To this I respond, who decided that work needed to be like a prison with guards?

Common sense?

Yes, coaching is common sense, but like many things in life, the things which make the most sense are sometimes the hardest things to do. Coaching takes patience, empathy, teaching, and having the person’s best intentions front and center. If this doesn’t work for you, then perhaps you should not be responsible for others.

Time for change

Our world, our economy, and our organizations need more coaches and fewer behaviorists. Most people from my research don’t enjoy their work. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this has an impact on how people work and how productive they are. So even if coaching is not your thing because you are too focused on the bottom line, then perhaps you should take a second look. Everyone around you will appreciate this and your numbers will be even better.

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson

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