InsideOut Development

3 Ways Not to Quit on Coaching

by Nancy Q. Smith


Most leaders demonstrate a knowing-doing gap with coaching. We see that coaching and feedback are vital to individual and organizational success. We’ve had coaches who have had a big impact on our lives and career. We even know what we should do to coach more effectively (Ask more. Tell less.) And yet, we admit we still don’t do it enough. Leaders share they default to telling — three times more than they ask.

Here are some of the most common excuses we give for why don’t coach more:

  • “I don't have time.” — We’re busy, and making time to be an effective coach seems like taking the time out from being productive. We do see a payback, but it is recognized as longer term. This is especially challenging when people managers are most valued for their production. Progressive organizations reward those people managers for producing high-performing direct reports.
  • “I don’t have the answers.” — This insecurity is especially true for people managers who have direct reports with a different experience set. This can actually be an advantage in a coaching relationship.
  • “I don’t know how.” — Rather than providing a simple coaching framework to reach across situations, coaching is often undefined or overcomplicated, resulting in a Rube Goldberg system that impedes progress and growth.

So how can we combat this tendency to quit on coaching?

Start with a mindset. The InsideOut Mindset is the belief that everyone has capacity to learn and perform at a higher level; it’s your job as a leader to bring out their best.

Talk to your leaders about establishing a coaching culture. Teach and support managers as they coach; establish internal coaches; make use of external coaches. A vision and framework for coaching can go a long way.

Commit to get more out of the conversations you’re already having without taking more time. Coaching is a conversation with purpose and direction. Here are three tips to get started:

  1. Ask more than tell. Withhold guidance until you’re certain it’s warranted. An overly directive approach conveys we don’t care what our team members know or think as we rob them of their ownership and their reason to engage beyond a paycheck and personal relationships.
  2. Ask in a spirit of service. Avoid “why” questions as they can create defensiveness. Try “what” questions instead. Part of what makes a good question is passing the “who” test. Who is the question serving? If the question serves you alone, don’t ask it.
  3. Seek what, when, and how commitments; then follow up. Go deeper than inquiring, “How is it going?” Help them refocus and refine their approach. Lack of follow-up conveys a lack of caring.

You already know how to be a great coach; now it’s time to bring that out in yourself.

Category: Coaching Leadership

Picture of Nancy Q. Smith

Nancy Q. Smith is a facilitator, consultant, and learning and development executive with over 30 years of experience. An in-demand speaker for supply management and human resources audiences, Nancy has also been published in Training Magazine. Nancy has been married to Tobin, the boy who stood next to her in her kindergarten picture, since 1988. They reconnected at the Wayne State library and have been together ever since. They are the proud parents of two children, Walker and Claire, and two fluffy dogs, Emma and Indie.

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