Solution Saturday: Coaching a Family Member
“Does the dynamic change when coaching family members?” (A question from a participant of an American Management Association webinar I gave on coaching for productivity.)
If you want to become a great coach, coach your spouse, children, or parents.
I love telling audiences that I coach my wife. Their responses indicate common misconceptions about coaches.
4 misconceptions about coaches:
- Coaches know more than coachees. Coaching is more difficult when you “know” the answer.
- Coaches have more skill than coachees. Tiger Wood’s golf coach can’t play golf as well as Tiger.
- Coaches control people with secret coaching techniques. That’s manipulation.
- Coaches have all the answers.
3 essential qualities when coaching family members:
Fixing is the beginning of manipulation and the end of curiosity.
Acceptance fuels curiosity; rejection stifles it.
Curiosity includes accepting people for who they are and how they want to strive toward agreed upon goals.
The humility it takes to coach a family member is the same humility it takes to coach colleagues, subordinates, or bosses.
The humility it takes to be coached is the same humility it takes to be coached by a spouse or subordinate.
The respect you’d show mom is the same type of respect you’d show a colleague when coaching them.
Frustration with a coachee indicates you want to control them. Back off, when you feel frustrated.
Coaching within an organization is often more about the way people achieve goals, not the goals themselves.
Mentors differ from coaches in that they know more than mentees in at least one area. Choose mentors based on achievement.
Coaching, mentoring, and advising often blend, depending on goals, skills, and experiences of those involved. My coach often asks if I would like him to coach, advise, or listen.
Have you coached a family member? What did you learn?
What makes coaching successful?
Drop me an email if you’d like to explore my coaching services.
Seems to me that as soon as you enter the coaching mindset with a family member, the subliminal message is, “You need improvement, so listen to me.”. Family members like to be treated as equal and/or independent, so an attempt to coach family is inherently flawed from the outset. Now if there’s obviously something in it for them such as, “If you’re open to my coaching, I’ll loan you the car for the evening.”, you might get tacit attention. Also, a voice you live with, can tend to blend in with other ambient noise. Sad, but true.
Thanks Lou. Your comment points to the essential quality of someone who is ready to be coached – aspiration to be better. We cannot impose that aspiration on someone and trying to is arrogant.
Coaches don’t make people better, they help people better themselves.
One of the things I like most about a family dinner with my adult children is the coaching that goes on. We are all coaching each other at different points in time. The safest approach is focusing on situations or scenarios attached to some aspect of work/career. Most things that we can be coached about for work are easily linked to our behaviors in other situations.
Someone will pose a question, an observation or a specific example about a situation at work. Then lots of questions are asked by all – ensuring a common understanding and to explore the landscape for possible approaches from different perspectives. Eventually the person has one or two really good take-aways. The best part is that everyone at the dinner table walks away smarter in so many ways.
I would imagine that many parents naturally attempt at the very least to coach and mentor their kids…or at least expose them to others who can. Our kids both do scouts and we go to Church so inaddition to their parents and teachers, they have other voices we trust to listen to. Ask questions. Explore the world.
Our son struggles on and off and I’m currently working overtime to help him. I stuck a whiteboard up in his room and as tempted as I was to write a list of his daily actions etc, I decided to draw a picture of him and add a joke and an I love you. Then, our daughter went and added that list. I thought that if she thought it should be there, that’s ok.
I think being part of community is essential when coaching family members. After all, it takes a village to raise a child!
Thanks Rowena. It’s great that bring community into a conversation about developing ourselves and others. You take us to a whole new level. Sometimes, the best coach is a little detached. 🙂
That’s true. I think you can use a bit of perspective. As the parent or family member, you can be too close and onl y see the pixels and not the big picture. This can be frustrating when we have a skill that would cost us nothing to pass on to our kids but they won’t listen to us. I’ve persevered regfardless. My son is struggling with his writing and structure and as a writer, AI’m well placed to help. I usually make sure my husband is home and then we get further. I didn’t do too badly teaching them the violin for awhile there and intend to pick that up again.
Quoting: “Mentors differ from coaches in that they know more than mentees in at least one area.” In that I value your thoughts so much, I’m really happy to read this. I’ve always felt I could coach in just about any field – mentor, definitely not. For reasons you’ve noted, I’m thinking it might be an advantage to know less as a coach. In sports, it seems to me the head coach is just that – a coach; but the assistant coaches are really more mentors.
Which brings me to coaching / mentoring family… I’ve run into problems when I try to mentor – without having been asked to do so. It’s much better when I coach – based on my experience, without mentoring. And that’s the biggest difference for me: It’s much harder restricting to coaching with family, because you want to be so successful and thus are at least so tempted to “show them how” as contrasted with helping them “find out how.”
Thank you John. Today’s comments are filled with so much heart.
I agree completely with the idea that knowing less is an advantage for a skilled coach. Drucker is the first one I saw who expressed this important idea. It’s also freeing to let go the need to have answers for others and just help them find answers.
Along with the need to know, the need to offer answers hinders the coaching process.
I really appreciated this post. I coach a family member who is not living with me – and entered it with a significant amount of hesitation. But I think it is one of the coaching scenarios that I continue to grow the most from. Since I don’t want to cross a line into telling or mentoring or knowing, it forces me to be even more thoughtful and intentional about the sessions, reflecting both before and after on staying true to coaching. This also causes me to regularly review solid coaching principles of which I discover nuances and deeper learning every time.
Thanks Mary Jo. Your experience reflects mine. I am so much more aware of coaching skills as a result of coaching my wife. Here most powerful feedback, “I can tell when you’re fixing or coaching.”
All the thoughts here are relevant and helpful. But I feel the strongest about the RESPECT component, as I suspect this is where many of us can get off track in how we coach a family member differently than a work colleague. If we always coach with respect, even with family, it helps us to not shift into preaching or driving our own agenda.
When I’m coached, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. It means that I can be better and someone cares enough to help me improve, even when that includes some tough messages that are hard to deliver. Tough love is a great thing, but without respect the recipient will usually just tune it all out. I’m not likely to sense any level of caring if I’m being coached from “on high” without respect because the supposed coach has all the answers and needs to tell me what to do.
I keep these thoughts in mind when I coach others. I’ll never get it all perfect, but I very much value what I learn from all aspects of coaching, whether I’m the coach or coachee. And in both roles, I always express my thanks to the other party because I always feel benefit from the exchange.
This conversation takes me back to when I was teaching high school music many moons ago. I had a flute student who was way beyond me in skill and talent. Her mother asked me a very reasonable question: “why should my daughter take lessons from you? what could you possibly teach her?”
My response was “I can teach her how to learn.” With her, it wasn’t about teaching her advanced techniques or skills, but rather strategies to approach new musical compositions, how to break down problems into smaller pieces, how to address her own insecurities, failures and real knowledge gaps. I didn’t teach her subject knowledge, I taught her how to grow into being a professional musician.