13 Challenges All Coaching-Managers Face
It’s more difficult to be a coaching-manager than to be a coach that comes in from the outside.
Open listening, courageous honesty, and not fixing, seem more challenging when coaches and coachees have work history.
Bad habits like sweeping issues under the rug make matters worse.
13 challenges all coaching-managers face:
- Time pressure and deadlines.
- Navigating confidentiality and organizational interests.
- Honesty and candor when coaches also control opportunity, salary, and advancement.
- Goals that are set by top management, not the coachee.
- Curiosity turns into manipulation. Questions are a means to an end, not truly open ended. “We all know you’re after something.”
- Switching or blending roles. Coaching isn’t advising, correcting, or instructing, but managers do all three.
- Discomfort with the supportive spirit of coaching and expecting results at the same time.
- Listening feels burdensome to managers who typically give directions.
- Problem-centric vs. solution-centric environments.
- Employees look to coaching-managers to give answers. “Just tell me what to do.”
- Coaching-managers know how to do their coachees jobs.
- Established relationships often include bias and baggage.
- Lack of training.
7 step coaching framework:
Frameworks provide clarity, consistency, and confidence for coaching-managers.
- Describe the challenge, problem, or opportunity.
- What would it look like if things were going as you hoped?
- What have you already tried?
- What do you need to stop? Think of efforts that aren’t working.
- What imperfect behaviors are likely to fuel progress? Develop options.
- Which imperfect behavior would you like to try?
- Next time we meet, what questions should I ask?
7 essential coaching behaviors:
Frameworks without authenticity and ownership are manipulation.
- Authenticity and self-awareness.
- Trust building.
- Curiosity and asking questions.
- Values clarification and alignment.
- Energy management.
- Fueling engagement.
Coaching – as a management style – enables managers to solve problems, enhance engagement, fuel performance, and increase enjoyment in ways that connect with today’s workforce.
What challenges do managers face when they adopt a coaching style?
How might managers become great coaches?
I’m delighted to partner with Clarity Development Consulting to offer the proven “Coaching for Engagement” program. Drop me an email if you’d like to explore having Bob Hancox and me come to your organization to develop the coaching skills of your team.
That’s the very truth.
I am a mid level manager/leader in a school district. We are constantly coaching as we change curriculum and expectations of our students and our teachers. I find it is difficult to build trust because we sell them on a program or methodology and they the system changes and they feel hurt or betrayed.
The positive is that we are moving toward more data analysis and objective review for our employees. That makes it a little less relationship oriented when you are coaching and more numeric and clinical. I must say that education is a very interesting model because it is has a management (government) that does not directly participate in the industry and a work force that is really only moveable if they choose (union).
The top part is an excellent listing of some of the roadblocks that get in the way of people trying to involve and engage others. What might be some of the other kinds of things that get in the way? What other things block the facilitation of improvement, like issues with what is measured or the complex and confounding problems caused by the compensation system or appraisal demands?
Thanks Dr. Scott. The role of appraisals and what should be measured help people know if coaching really matters to an organization. Very helpful.
Hi Dr. Simmerman, one of the things that I have experienced that blocks improvement is the “Fake Coach”. This is where a manager pretends to really want to know about your future plans and what you are currently doing only to be able to jot some things down on a yearly performance appraisal that was months overdue so it could be turned in to HR. Trust and respect go out the door when you only hear crickets afterwards.
Yep. The old “Checkbox” approach to “performance management” — Those kinds of organizational realities really do roadblock real improvement possibilities. Since, “Trust is the residue of Promises fulfilled,” (Frank Navran), those behaviors set up expectations and distrust for things that happen down the road. Water over the dam erodes the surface and water under the bridge will eventually cause the structure to fail.
Thanks for circling back. Love the Navran quote. Powerful!
So glad you joined in Shane.
Good morning Dan;
Interesting blog today my freind. Transitioning from Manager to Coach has some unique challenges.
Managers and Managment systems typically follow a regimented routine focusing on things like quota’s,
system efficiancy, overtime tracking, etc., etc.
Coaches and coaching require a more ‘People-Oriented’ approach. Coaching in the business world share’s
many striking simularities when concidering what it take’s to put together a ‘WINNING TEAM’. Coaches are
at times like the Conductor of an Orchestra. To receive opitimal performance from your teams the caoch must
know his people. Coaches have to be aware of individual skill’s & talent’s so that each individual is in the right
position to utilize their strengthes. However, there is something more, something deeper than simply knowing
skills and talents. The very best caoches build close relationships with their people. We’ve all seen sports teams
filled to overflowing with talent, only to have a dismal season. When this happens it’s almost certain your teams &
people lack unity and cohesion. Great coaches understand consistancy and succsess ultimatley hinge the bond
your people share. That bond often starts with you, ‘The-Coach’. You must exhibit a sincere dedication to your
people. When you routinely practice putting the needs of others before your own, it shoows people how much
you care. When people know you care about them as a father does his children, they begin to believe that together,
you will pull together as a team to defeat challenges and obstacles that leave average teams bewildered and beatin.
In closing; ‘REMEMBER’, we who are Coaches, Teachers, Clergy, or Business Leaders, or just average folks. If you
in a Leadership/Coaching/Mentor position you will have followers. Followers work habits and ethics typically mirror that
of their Leaders. Here-in lies the important question each must ask ourselves; ” What does the work ethic and the
“Espirit-de-corps” of OUR PEOPLE, say about the example WE are setting???
Thanks SGT. Your focus on people and relationships takes us back to the foundations of coaching.
Hi Dan: interesting comments today. For me there are two fundamental tenets of coaching that are very difficult (I think impossible) for a manager.
1. Coaching is a partnership agreed to by the coachee and coach. A manager is part of a hierarchy. Will the employee coachee feel comfortable declining to be ‘coached’ by the manager and thus I question the potential for a conversation lacking in transparency.
2. A coach is not invested in the outcome of the conversation. They create the safe space for the coachee to reflect and figure out what is best for themselves. A manager is and should be very much invested in the outcome of the conversation. I think this creates an enormous challenge and conflict for the manager as a coach.
So I struggle with the concept of managers being coaches. I think they can be ‘coach like’ as they support curious exploration and facilitate learning.
Happy Canada Day!
Thank you Kathy. Great input to the conversation. Interesting use of language – “coach like.” Perhaps one distinction is that managers may not be coaches in the purest sense of the term, but, they can employ coaching skills.
Kathy – If you work with a really good manager, I think that the coaching is no issue at all, since there is mutual respect and trust. I have had a couple of them over the years (Dorothy Irons, back in 1966, remains a strong positive impact on me, as did Dick King at Chapel Hill in the 70s).
On the other hand, if you have a mediocre (and not even a really bad) manager, all bets are off. I have had a couple of them (Ed, for example, who started EVERY discussion with, “Scott, I only have a minute…) while he stood there practicing his golf swing. (Seriously!!).
We NEED more of the former. The skillsets are pretty much known. We need a lot less of the latter. (And I do think many are actually trainable; we just need to change some of their behavior.)
And then there are the psychopaths and sociopaths and other types that also appear in many organizations (need we say, Congress?).
Can’t help myself…one rider I put with this great list/s. when the coaching manager knows how to do the coachees job – No. 11 (which isn’t universal) – they have to shift their point of view to that of knowing only ‘how they would do it’ – only the rare individual can hope to know the coachee’s job as ‘the coachee’ would choose to do and execute it. Not imposing a method or a style – simply being an objective sounding board and mirror to the outcomes and progress of the coachee – is a key to growth for both parties.
Love your work
Thanks Richard. You nailed it! One of the hardest things managers do is manage people who are doing the job they used to do.
Quoting: “Coaching – as a management style – enables managers to solve problems, enhance engagement, fuel performance, and increase enjoyment in ways that connect with today’s workforce.” For me at least, coaching means working with those being coached, with them involved… Contrasted with leading / managing, it’s not just us involved – necessarily, though I seek to include the others most of the time when appropriate.
Thanks John. If an organization wants to engage employees, coaching is one way to do it. As you say, coaching means working “with.” That’s so powerful.
Dan, in the past 2 or 3 years you’ve posted some great overviews on “Mentors vs. Advisors,” and persons considered a “know-it-all” and those characterized as “I need more information” before they make decisions but are really afraid to act.
You and your readers freak me out with information and insight, like how both mentor and advisor want us to grow, but the distinction may be how mentors “passionately want us to outgrow them.”
And with regard to know-it-alls and information, it was said we must be prepared to act with the best and most information available within a reasonable period of time. We must learn to trust our judgment…and act!
What is the difference in both the Coach (vs. mentor or advisor) and the information that a coach brings to the work environment?
Thanks Books. I agree. For me, the best part of Leadership Freak is learning from my readers.
Your question re: how much information a coach brings to the work environment, is important to navigating coaching relationships at work. It seems that coaches within the work environment slip between coaching, mentoring, advising, and listening.
Learning to navigate relational options may be one thing coaches and coachees discuss and negotiate. Of course, coaching within an organization has greater restriction and may not allow for people to choose all possible options because of organizational agendas.
Thanks for bringing this up. What are your thoughts about the information bring
After reading your follow-up and then going back to your post, I again stand corrected–like always. You specifically say “Coaching is a Management style,” not some additional theory or addendum to be thrown onto the backs of either manager or staff member to replace what’s already working. And it’s not new information you’re talking about per se, rather new ways of using and integrating information to gain bettered behaviors and results from existent staff members and even re-energizing existing leaders.
Please pardon me, Dan. I was wrong. I read your post with a bias for “no change.” Now I can even see John Wooden there. And what a master and accomplished Coach he was.
Thanks Books. I thought your observation was important and useful. Your comments expand my thinking. Much appreciated.
I must say, your 1st statement caused a hint of a ‘slightly confused Raised-Brow’ for a second it two. Then I went on to read your follow-up, I too can at times comprehend what I ‘think’ I read only to find my focus can always use alil-more work. BTW, I like the follow-up much better! LOL
To mirror Dan’s comment, I glean just as much knowledge from the insights of readers,(like yourself), as I do from Dan. Which in no way is a strike against Dan. Quite the contrary, anyone who graciuosly share’s such expert knowledgeable advice to leaders at all levels is going to attract sharp like-minded critical thinkers as well.
“It’s like fishing in a pond where every time you ‘make a cast’, YOU HOOK UH’ KEEPER !”
Hava great Holiday weekend Books…
An approach my organisation uses is splitting out coaching/mentoring and managing. Because management is seen as a job skill anyone can learn, there are often few “managers”, each of whom manages a lot of people. The manager is responsible for the box-ticking, form-filling and lip service stuff, and also the painful stuff: when staff have to be used to get the job done.
The mentoring and coaching is then handed out to others: so, I don’t have any direct managees, but I have two mentees/coachees.
This helps to address the problem of supporting staff on the one hand and having to drive them to get results at any cost.
Mitch – I read and reread what you wrote and can come to the conclusion of “Manager = Clerk” and that any leadership or performance improvement initiatives lie elsewhere with someone else? And, are these clerks then taught any other skills than the compliance ones? Are these “managers” motivated to perform and to learn new skills for their personal growth? Are they prevented from actually coaching?
In response to my initial question, a friend told me about Kegan and Leahy’s book, Immunity to Change. That gets into immunity mapping, which helps identify the issues and opportunities such as cultural management and engagement. I ordered the book; it seems to be interesting stuff to get at underlying causal factors in coaching and managing and managing performance.
Scott, you are largely right. “Manager” is deemed a skill/role, much like “analyst”, “statistician”, “wildlife biologist” or others as appropriate. Some of this is driven in that we are a scientific/technical organisation, where most of us are professionals within our specific fields, but are considered amateurs as managers.
The leadership model is that from the very top the order is given, and managers are tasked with having their managees make it happen. There *is* some lip service paid to improvement, but the onus is entirely on the individual staff member to assess what they need and how it fits into the delivery requirements of the organisation.
Since many, especially junior staff, don’t know what they ought to be developing (they never see the wood, just their individual tree), it’s the coach/mentors’ job to try to guide them and help them develop a plan and development objectives the manager will rubber stamp.
The exception is compulsory learning like safety, security, diversity training and the like. CPD is encouraged/support in so far as it is directly related to delivery (e.g. a need to retain a specific qualification).
Managers are expected to develop – they are expected to become better at the technical parts of management, and be conversant with whatever the current “best practice” is. There is nothing to actually stop these people coaching, indeed a few do, but in general they are coaching people to do the same role, not coaching the people they manage.
The problem arises because managers are expected to deliver, more or less at any cost, and there is an unwritten expectation that training/development time is used to fill holes in the delivery budget. Therefore, if the manager sets up the development project then it is understood to be set up to fail, since the manager is the one who cuts it to ensure work is done, because deliverybudgets are cut below the bone. If a coach/mentor develops it, there is some separation between the person trying to deliver it and the person who shuts it down.
It isn’t a case of not being allowed to coach, but since both sides are aware that the manager will neverget beyond lip service, neither side is very enthused about doing it that way.
Mitch – Ah! That explanation clears up a lot of the situational stuff. And it reminds me of a story from long ago. I sell “cartoon toolkits” and the key element is a wooden wagon being pulled by a “leader” and pushed by others. It has a cargo of Round rubber tires but rolls on wooden Square Wheels.
The suggested way of using this is to show the illustration to a group of people and ask them, “How might this illustration represent how things really work in most organizations?”
That generates ideas and engagement and all sorts of things, in the hands of a trainer or consultant. It generates divergent thinking, best practices, collaborative framing and all sorts of things related to continuous continuous improvement.
A trainer in the HR department of an aeronautical engineering company in Hong Kong had lots of basic ideas for involving and engaging her engineering staff to make workplace improvements but the engineers all considered “training” and anything having to do with HR as a waste of time. (Yeah, I know you are now nodding your head in agreement. (grin.) )
So she was going to use the illustration to start a meeting on ideas for improvement and collaboration. She was going to get them to talk about what they needed to do to make things more efficient and to improve collaboration with her department to offer the right kinds of training and support and all that…
I called her a week later and she said that the session was a complete FAILURE, that the engineers were adversarial and they basically refused to talk. I was actually shocked, because we have NEVER gotten that reaction to the illustration before and I had used it worldwide. So, I asked her what she did.
She said she put it up on the screen and said, “How does this illustration represent how your organization… ” and she stopped mid-sentence. She (and I) immediately realized that by the simple use of the word YOUR, she changed it from a collaborative discussion exercise to an ATTACK of engineering by HR. The pin hit the balloon and lots of old feelings immediately bubbled up.
Yeah, there ARE some issues as well as opportunities to make improvements in how things work! And the collective does need to share ideas and perspectives on what might be done differently.
Engineers and scientists are people too, and they need to step back from the wagon to occasionally look at things from different perspectives to define new opportunities. That is where the coaching that Dan talks about can be anchored to the personal improvement reality.
“…a wooden wagon being pulled by a “leader” and pushed by others. It has a cargo of Round rubber tires but rolls on wooden Square Wheels…”
In ours, the leader is stood BEHIND the pushers, yelling, “Go on,put your backs into it! I’m right behind you…”
“Engineers and scientists are people too, and they need to step back from the wagon to occasionally look at things from different perspectives to define new opportunities.” We know we’re people, but I sometimes think that our “leaders” forget, and dump engineers and scientists into a box with other tools and equipment, as if because we are deal in facts and logic, we’re an alternative to laptops!
Dan, that’s a very useful list that managersleaders need to be aware of. You never cease to surprise me with your insights and suggested solutions.
In terms of a conflict between goals from senior management being “handed down” and the manager needing to coach their team members, here’s my thought: If an employee is at odds too often with a goal he or she is expected to achieve, it’s time to move on. The coachee needs to own their organization’s goals and if that keeps coming up as a problem, the problem is a mismatch between the employee and the company.
Also, in my workshops coaching managers and leaders how to coach, when it comes to “telling the employee what to do” or giving advice, here’s what I tell managers: You’re not a full time coach as I am and you don’t always have the luxury of having the time of asking questions to get your team member to think things through or arrive at their own insights and answers. Sometimes, you have to answer the question directly or give advice and direction because decisions have to be made now and action taken now.
Not all coaches agree (and I’m one of them) that advice giving and “observations from the coach” are inappropriate for coaching. My job is to help my clients get results in a timely manner, not just to develop them. Both are important and the former can be done without sacrificing the latter if not overdone.
Thanks Alan. Thank you for your kind words.
I enjoy your insights. The blending of coach, adviser, mentor, director, correcter, teacher, helper, listener, and … ??? is challenging. I’m with you. Pure coaching, that excludes advising, only exists in books.
Knowing when to switch rolls is even more challenging than simply saying, “Coaches only do xyz.”
Switching between coach and teacher may depend on the coachee’s skill level or knowledge base, for example.