5 Ways to Face the Challenges of Coaching Teammates
The challenge of coaching teammates is technical skill. You know how to do their job the “right” way, if you’ve been promoted up the ranks. Or, at least you think you know.
Don’t explore options when there is only one. It’s disingenuous, manipulative, and humiliating.
If there truly is only one way to accomplish the goal, then teach, don’t coach. Tell, show, give room to practice, and evaluate.
If you know “a” way:
What if you know “a” way to get the job done, but want them to explore their options?
Tell them you’ve done the job and you know a way to get it done. Ask permission to explore options that make sense for them.
“Would it be ok if we explore ways to accomplish this goal in ways that make sense to you? What works for me, may not work best for you.”
Don’t be a know-it-all because you know one answer.
Coach after you give advice:
If coachees want your advice, and you are inclined to give it, coach after they’ve tried your methods.
“Go ahead and try it this way. Let’s talk about the things that worked and didn’t work for you at our next meeting. Perhaps we’ll find new ways to get the job done that suit your strengths.”
- My way is the right way.
- “I didn’t think your way would work, but I wanted you to learn a lesson.”
- Coaching as coercion or manipulation.
- Pretending you don’t know, when you know.
- Savior-coach attitudes.
- Ask at least two questions before making statements.
- Provide space for progress, if time allows.
- Pursue solutions that work for others, not you.
- Give advice reluctantly.
- Honor their strengths and celebrate progress.
Bonus: Ask, “What’s next?”
How might internal coaches answer the challenges of coaching teammates and direct reports?
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.
can you elaborate on coaching vs teaching ?
Thanks Bill. Teaching is transferring information/material from teacher to student. It suggests the teacher knows things the student doesn’t know. When you coach someone, you don’t need to know more than they know. It’s usually easier if you don’t.
The coach needs to know how to coach, but the couch doesn’t need to know the answer to issues or problesm. The coach doesn’t need technical skill in the same area as the coachee.
As a matter a fact, when I coach people, I don’t even need to know the specifics of the problem. They need to know the problem. I just need to know about the problem. My job is to help them find solutions, not give solutions.
Coaching does include teaching, sometimes.
thanks – so often in the tech area, there is no single answer, so the solution is to find a good solution that works within the budget constraints, or one that delivers a competitive advantage – so it lends itself to coaching.
That makes sense.
sometimes we have to abandon the “best” solution for a “good” solution because the cost of finding the best solution can be very high in terms of time and money.
The stuff out there on BIAS clearly shows that team discussions get at most of the bad thinking patterns, if the group is allowed to think and self-directed, trusting and open.
The Immunity to Change book by Hagan and Leahy gets into some of the hidden attitude things about why we do what we do. It is a pretty interesting read. Applicable. (The immunity aspect of it simply frames up that our current behavior is protecting us from fear — there are underlying reasons why we are doing what we do because it is ecological to our being in some ways and only by getting into those “hidden” motivations can we really implement changes in personal behaviors.)
Goood stuff, Dan.
Thanks Dr. Scott. This isn’t the first time you mentioned Hagan and Leahy. I’m going to have to get that book!
Great tips and love the ‘words to use’
Listen more than you talk (coach/teach)
Ask when would be a good time to check in next to see how its going. (Asking shifts the power differential a titch and if followed as they define, clearly entrusts them to do the work.)
FWIT: While there are similarities with coaching and teaching, ‘old school’ teaching typically has been a one way exchange, where coaching goes in incremental cycles based on ongoing observations and reciprocal exchanges. Coaching often uses a set of nuanced approaches…motivating, demonstrating, pointing, challenging, pattern identification. Not saying teaching doesn’t do that now, in the past, just not so much.
Thanks for adding to the teaching/coaching discussion.
The idea of “pattern identification” jumped off the page. It’s a great gift to tell a coachee what you see. We find ourselves in the weeds and fall into patterns that, in the end, cause us to end up stuck.
A coach doesn’t have to be more skilled than the person they are coaching. They just have to be able to describe what they see. The lights often come on when someone describes behavioral patterns. I just had to jump on that one!
The leader was probably put into this position because the leader did come up with good ideas / plans. I’d be reluctant to push my idea(s) if I were looking for a better option. Too likely they’ll be blinded to good problem solving because it’s ‘from the boss.’ You want your reports to be engaged and you want them confident when the really tough situation arises – and it will. I was just communicating with others about the Apollo 13 ‘square into round hole’ problem, for example.
Have to ask: I get the fact that a previous solution likely would work; but if it’s been a while, won’t there be a better option???
Thanks John. You brought up the issue of “suggestions from the boss.” It’s easy for employees to go with the boss. All the more reason to give space for others to explore, choose, and try their own options.
Someone needs to write a book titled, “Just because it worked once….”
Excellent post, Dan. Sometimes our egos get involved when we focus on our way as being “the” way. If another way actually works BETTER, we can become inwardly critical/judgmental about ourselves. That can lead to withholding of a positive comment or praise to the other person because we think acknowledging their way might diminish our own contributions/experience in some way.
Thanks Meredith. Good seeing you. It takes humility to celebrate another’s success, especially if that person is an employee who finds a better way to get something done. Perhaps that’s one reason tweaking good work is common.
Years back, a reader of Leadership Freak asked about the difference between an advisor and a mentor. I’m not sure if it was Dan or another reader who answered that each have their reason and place, and they both want their “mentees” to learn and grow. “Mentors, though, passionately want us to outgrow them.”
Regarding coaching and teachers, I’m amazed at how Dan can conjure up so many leadership scenarios that seem to touch us all and for which we identify…and do it each day…day after day… even on Sundays. That FREAKS me out. How can one guy know so much about everyone’s business, management dilemma’s, leadership needs, organizational schema’s, process methods, result orientations— and never promote a “one-size-fits-all modus operandi?
And, personally, I’m a bit shook-up by Dan. That doggone Dan messes with almost all of my responses. In one of my comments Dan added his reply of just one line, something to the effect of “Coaching leads us beyond mere leadership, knowledge and wisdom, to a scope of influence that is centered in the heart.” I about fell over dead. It sounded like Coach Wooden of UCLA fame.
A coach is someone who demonstrates what’s possible…if and when we are large enough and humble enough to ask and accept counsel. Does Dan bask in our success? “Kapow!”
I so agree with you…. sometimes peers are afraid to share their expertise and hold back when they shouldn’t. On the flip side… I also see peers who THINK they have the only way to do something and are so confident that it’s the best, that they truly tick off their peers. As in all things, leadership… it’s a balancing act of confidence and humility.
how do you give advice “reluctantly” if you know the answer?
Thanks Marike. The belief that we know the answer is difficult to control. Being reluctant to give advice expresses the idea that the answer you give, you own. The answer they give, they own. It’s about motivation and ownership.
It’s also about the belief that there is usually more than one answer to the question.
It’s also about respecting the strengths of others.
Having said all that, it takes discipline to give others space to find answers.
Even if the answer they find is the same as yours, it’s better that they went through the process of finding it.