Teaching coaching skills to managers is one of my favourite aspects of my job in leadership development. I am always amazed at the courage that managers have in engaging with a brand new skill set which can feel like the antithesis of what they should be doing. During these workshops, I often run into the same set of misconceptions about coaching so I thought that I would take a moment and address three of the most common ones that I come across:
As a coach I am partly responsible for finding a solution– Your role as a coach is to create a safe space for someone else to explore a topic openly and you are responsible for facilitating a process by asking questions. You are not responsible for finding a solution, not even a little bit! That’s because your coachee has the answers and if they don’t, they have the resources to find the answer (which does not include you!) So let go of the pressure of finding the answer and concentrate on asking great coaching questions.
It’s ok to offer suggestions as a coach when coming up with potential solutions– This is a tricky one! Your job as a coach is to get your coachee to come up with their own options and push them to think out of the box. There is an argument that only after you have exhausted this list that you can offer to add a suggestion of your own. A couple of things to keep in mind if you do this. Firstly, you need to commit to really exhausting this list as often managers who are coaching will get just a few options from their coachee before adding their own. Secondly, as a manager your suggestion may carry more weight and may be interpreted as the one that they should choose because you are their manager. In my opinion it is best to hold off offering suggestions completely.
The purpose of coaching is to get my direct report to come up with the solution I would want them to have. False! I cannot emphasise this enough. The whole point of coaching is to let go and have your coachee come up with their own answers which is an incredibly empowering experience that builds trusts between manager and direct report. If you use coaching to manipulate your coachee/direct report it will destroy trust and be a very disempowering experience.
I hope that the above misconceptions have helped to create clarity for managers who are still learning what coaching is and is not. Coaching is a powerful tool in leading people effectively but can cause more damage than not if it is used without a full understanding. Knowledge is power and in the case of coaching, it can help you be more confident and effective in using this often misunderstood leadership style.