Are you shocked I said it!  Well, think how I felt when I got a call from an operations director and her opening statement was “Coaching doesn’t work!  I’ve tried coaching my ops manager for six weeks and her performance still hasn’t improved.” 

We continued to talk and within a few minutes identified what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.  But the whole incident got to me thinking …Why don’t we see better results from coaching?

After a bit of pondering I thought of 4 big things that are needed to increase the effectiveness of coaching.

  1. Embrace the value of the soft skills needed for leadership.  Ask anyone what is leadership and you’re likely to hear “it’s hard to define but I know it when I see it.” That’s because it’s the “soft skills” that makes the difference.  Technical skills may get the job done its soft skills like listening, presentation ideas, sales, process improvement, analytical skills, trust building and likeability that enables everyone to work together towards a common goal.  For coaching to work, you must develop soft skills are as important and technical skills. Don’t believe me? How would you feel if your top performer’s communication skills were so bad they pissed off everyone in the department?
  2. Coaching requires vulnerability.  We all consciously or subconsciously understand if we aren’t seen as capable, competent and valuable there’s an impact on our livelihood.  Coaching works when you have to be able to share aspect of your life that aren’t always acceptable at work.  Let’s face it, if you’re struggling to figure out how to spend more time with your family, you can be branded as not career oriented.  If you haven’t learned how to handle the stress of the job; your boss may sideline you on high value projects in an effort to “protect” you. If you disagree with your boss’ you may be branded as uncooperative or unwilling/unable to receive feedback.  These realities carry risk with them and for most people protect themselves from these risks.
  3. Resistance is part of change.  Coaching pushes you out of your comfort zone and when that happens people resist. And sometimes resistance ain’t pretty.  When you’re responsible for getting work done on a tight timeline embracing resistance is the last thing you want.  Resistance feels like it slows things down and can be exhausting to manage.   Yet breaking down resistance in a positive way is an essential part of coaching.
  4. Coaching requires self-awareness.  At its foundation, coaching requires you to understand how your biases impact your judgment and decision making.  There’s a phenomenon known as the “halo” effect.  Basically its when our perception on one personality trait influences how we view a person’s entire personality or performance.  For example, if we think a person matches our perception of a great leader we tend to overlook their flaws.  I am often heard saying “the hardest person to listen to is someone we’ve dubbed as a jerk.  But even a broke clock is right twice a day.” Being fully engaged with someone whom you decided has nothing to say is hard.  And the same is true of someone whom you’ve decided is a high performer.  In either case, your belief about them colors what you think of their ideas and potential for success. Coaching requires that you pay attention and be fully present with an individual probing to understand how they make decisions.   If you’re not aware of your own biases its easy to create a story in your head about the person which may not have any bearing on them today.   

Bottom line coaching doesn’t work when we fail to consider these four aspects.  It is an effective tool when the conditions are right.  Review each of the four tips.  Did you notice each of them has more to do with you than the person you are coaching?

Coaches, whether their niche is personal, lifestyle or business, understand that every client is an opportunity to teach but also to learn more about how you make decisions.  So if you’re going to be coaching… just remember to get ready to spend more time examining your own stuff. 

I talked about 4 things that affect coaching.  What do you think?  Share any ideas you may have on the topic.