coachingI recently posted a comment on the Harvard Business Review blog about an article titled, “6 Ways to turn managers into coaches again,” which discusses how to transform managers into great coaches. While, I agree with the premise that managers are not very effective at coaching, the suggestions made are neither new nor useful. Mostly the suggestions are simply telling a manager to try harder at coaching, which does not add much value. As a key element of our extensive work with developing coaches we analyzed in-depth the coach role to more fully understand the factors that prevent great coaching. We found numerous pressures that prevent managers from actually doing meaningful coaching. First, there is a lot of confusion about when the manager is in a “telling role” or a “supportive role.” A telling role is essentially a manager who dogmatically tells people what to do. A supportive role is all about guiding people to develop key attitudes and capabilities through exploration and real world experiences. In the midst of all this confusion, “telling” usually comes to dominate and “coaching” becomes less effective because people learn to passively wait to be told what to do. Second, managers have an incomplete and ineffective model of how to be a great coach. They don’t usually understand what drives a role and they don’t know how to develop others toward mastery of that role. As a default mode, managers assume that their personal experience is the model for coaching others, since it’s the only model they have. As a result, managers coach by telling people about their own personal experiences which too often has only minimal connection with actual success factors. In the end, what gets communicated is again done through telling and what gets told is often incorrect. Lastly, due to so many shot-term pressures, managers are often left feeling like they don’t have the time to be supportive. As a result, they either stop talking completely or move further into an ineffective telling mode. In the absence of time and skills to be a supportive coach, good coaching will never happen. Instead of the stale bromides of this post, we need a system that accounts for all of these pressures and in the end, produces great employee development (which is, presumably, the goal of coaching). Here are four simple steps to develop great coaches: 1. Separate the content of the coaching from the coaching process. Make a concentrated effort to develop clear specific best practices that can be used by the coach as a foundation for supportive coaching. These best practices should include a compelling purpose and operational excellence. 2. Place your employees into social learning groups. Complete 1-2 conscious development exercises a week within these groups. The exercises should be designed to develop the attitudes and behaviors from step one. 3. Give everyone one hour per week to practice reflective learning – related to their experiences in the exercises from step two. 4.Teach the managers to lead the learning groups to extract and, most importantly, apply what the groups have learned. By completing these four simple steps, your organization will eliminate the need for “coaching,” because everyone will become a great self-directed learner.]]>

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