One of the myths about coaching that I still meet regularly is that coaching is soft and just about “personal stuff”. The people with this misconception will typically dismiss coaching as something that is a distraction from delivering business results.
In his guest post, Jan Bowen-Nielsen dispels this myth.
Using Soft Skills to Get Hard Results
Are you “soft” or “hard”?
When a team member comes in and asks for your opinion or help to fix a problem, how do you respond?
I would argue that the easy, that is “soft” way, is to give the person your answer, advice or solution. And, the “hard” option is to challenge the team member to come up with their own answers.
Initially, the first option seems helpful and efficient, but this is short-lived when you consider the consequences! You have effectively re-enforced that you have the answers and they are helpless without you.
They are unlikely to have learned much, if anything, so you can expect the team member to come back again and again with similar problems for you to solve.
This creates a dependency on you and diverts your attention from doing your job. It does not lead to a high performance team!
The harder option involves helping the team member to solve the problem for themselves.
This will improve their capabilities and confidence.
If you help them to learn from the experience, so they are better equipped to solve similar problems in the future, they will improve their capabilities and confidence, and you will have fewer interruptions in the future.
The long-term time saving is indeed the most frequently cited benefit of using a coaching approach that I hear from managers after they have completed a coaching training course.
Achieving hard business results by addressing soft barriers
Coaching in business environments tends to be orientated towards hard performance improvement goals. However, the barriers to achieving these are often related to the individual’s personal self-awareness, behaviours, habits, motivation, focus and skills.
So, although coaches employ many soft skills in their practice, they are also trained to be challenging and demanding in order to help the coached overcome limitations and barriers they are placing on themselves. A good coach will also take a systemic view, looking at how achieving business goals are linked to changes in the actions, behaviours and mind-set of the coached.
Coaching is not the answer to every leadership situation
Of course, there are times when coaching is not appropriate, when the leader needs to be firm and decisive and set clear expectations.
There are times when teaching is more productive. For example, when the team member has no knowledge of the subject matter. There are times when the urgency demands a quick resolution — but, do consider revisiting the situation later with a coaching approach to explore how a similar urgent situation can be avoided in the future.
Coaching is just one of many competencies and styles that successful leaders need to apply to get the most out of their team, depending on what the leader is trying to achieve and the overall performance of the team.
However, the experience of many managers who use the coaching competencies is that the coaching approach is the one that they apply most frequently — once trained and confident in its use.
What is your view and experience of coaching?
Creative Commons image courtesy Peter Morgan.