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Coaching - What Is It?

Coaching focuses on future possibilities, not past mistakes.

Managers must think of their employees in terms of their (future) potential, not their (past) performance. Coaching, therefore, is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

The Manager as Coach

A manager must be experienced as a support, not as a threat.

When I was a little boy, my parents told me what to do, and scolded me when I didn’t. When I went to school my teachers told me what to do, and caned me when I didn’t. When I joined the army, the sergeant told me what to do, and God help me if I didn’t, so I did. When I got my first job, my boss told me what to do too. So when I reached a position of some authority, what did I do? I told people what to do, because that is what all my role models had done. That is true for the majority of us: we have been brought up on telling, and we are very good at it.

The attraction of telling or dictating is that, besides being quick and easy, it provides the dictator with the feeling of being in control. This is, however a fallacy. The dictator upsets and demotivates his staff, but they neither dare show it nor offer feedback, which would not have been heard anyway.

What this throws up is, ‘What is the role of the manager?’ Many managers too frequently find themselves firefighting, struggling to get the job done. By their own admission, they are unable to devote the time they feel they should to long-term planning, to visioning, to taking the overview, to surveying alternatives, the competition, new products and the like. Most importantly, they are unable to devote the time to growing their people, to staff development. They send them on a training course or two and kid themselves that they will do it. They seldom get their money’s worth.

So how can managers find the time to coach their staff? It is so much quicker to dictate. The paradoxical answer is that if they coach their staff, the developing staff shoulder much greater responsibility, freeing the manager from firefighting not only to coach more but to attend to those overarching issues that only he can address. So growing people is enlightened self-interest rather than idealism that offers no added value. Sure, at time it will be all hands to the pumps and to hell with the niceties., but that is acceptable and accepted in a culture in which people feel cared for.

If managers manage by the principles of coaching, they both get the same job done to a higher quality and develop their people simultaneously. It sounds too good to be true to have 250 days a year of getting the job done and 250 days a year of staff development per person, but that is precisely what the manager/coach gets.

Some Additional Ideas on Coaching

The manager’s task is simple - to get the job done and to grow their staff. Time and cost pressures limit the latter. Coaching is one process with both effects.

No two human bodies or minds are the same. How can I tell you to use yours to their best? Only you can discover how, with AWARENESS.

Our potential is realised by optimising our own individuality and uniqueness, never by moulding them to another’s opinion of what constitutes best practice.

To tell denies or negates another's intelligence, to ask honours it.

Telling or asking closed questions saves people from having to think. Asking open questions causes them to think for themselves.

Coaching questions compel attention for an answer, focus attention for precision and create a feedback loop. Instructing does none of these.

When I want to, I perform better that when I have to. I want it for me, I have to for you. Self-motivation is a matter of choice.

Coaching offers personal control. A primary cause of stress in the work place is a lack of personal control.

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