The coaching Manager : Some common coaching mistakes and pitfalls.

By Allen Macintosh

I will outline the “top ten” coaching pitfalls for managers and coaches. If managers as coaches fall into these pitfalls, this can have a lasting negative effect on both the managers and their employees, so beware!

Pitfall 1: You don’t put the time in.

In order for coaching to happen, you have to put time aside. It doesn’t always take dedicated time to coach. It can be done “on the job” and this “performance coaching” can only last a matter of minutes. On the other hand, you will need to put time aside for “dedicated time coaching”, especially where you are really attempting to support your employees through particular issues that require deep understanding. If you are struggling with workload then look at some time management techniques to help you manage your workload. Putting time in for your employees will bring untold benefits in the future.

Pitfall 2: You forget to contract.

Recently I asked a number of managers if they had contracted their roles with their employees. Almost all of them did not know what a contract was and what specifically was entailed within a contract. Once I had explained, most of the managers admitted to assuming that their employees knew what was expected from the managers. Assumptions do not always reflect reality! A contract is essential if you are to really understand your employees and they are to understand how you operate. A contract is the best way of managing expectations and developing a good working relationship. A firm contract is essential if you are to become a specialized coach.

Pitfall 3: You break the contract.

A contract is the beginning of building trust and respect, vital components of any working relationship. Break the contract and you run the risk of the relationship breaking down, sometimes for good. The biggest source of broken contracts is confidentiality. If you are a “gossip merchant” then beware change your habits or suffer the consequences.

Pitfall 4: You fail to build rapport.

You need to know about your own behavioural style and know how to identify other people’s styles. You should be able to flex your own style to match others and thereby build rapport. Failure to build rapport can, like the broken contract, lead to unproductive working relationships.

Pitfall 5: You use GROW inappropriately.

The GROW model is an excellent coaching model but care must be taken to explore fully each of the stages. You must also be very flexible, as you may have to “jump about” through the model, revisiting goals, or checking on reality, as well as fully exploring every option. On a number of occasions, I have got to the Wrap-Up or Will stage only to find that the Will is not there because the goals are unrealistic at that point in time. Do not use the model quickly failure to explore fully will lead to unrealism and demotivation.

Pitfall 6: You fail to listen intently.

There is nothing worse than a poor listener, especially when someone is attempting to help you understand what is going on in his or her work. By not listening or allowing yourself to be distracted during a conversation can lead to great frustration on behalf of the listener. Find a quiet comfortable spot away from a lot of noise before you commence any coaching sessions. Find a quiet spot to coach and turn the mobile off!!

Pitfall 7: You are manipulative in your questioning.

One of the hardest things a coach or manager has to do is to “distance” themselves from the content of a conversation. In coaching you should not manipulate the employee into doing things that you would do, or doing them in a way that you would perform them. You have every right to think that a task should be done in a particular way — you do not have a right to impose it on the employee. Who is to say that your way is the best way anyhow? Do not use your questions so as to lead the employee to your way of thinking. You might come away satisfied that your employee is going to do your bidding, but you can bet that nine times out of ten, the employee is not motivated to carry out the actions.

Pitfall 8: You do not take calculated risks.

A big challenge for managers under pressure. What if it goes wrong? What if senior managers find out that an employee did it their own way and not the way you would like them to do it? What would happen if say, they did their way, and that way turned out to be the most productive way ever thought of? Take the risks and provided you have ensured the employee has the capability, then rarely will you regret it. You may want, though, to be in a position to effectively manage your superiors!

Pitfall 9: You coach when you shouldn’t.

Learn to distinguish between coaching and counselling. If sessions are beginning to get very “personal” and conversations become too “psychological” then prepare to back off and refer on to a qualified counsellor. There are other situations where coaching is not the preferred intervention for developing people and that you need to choose another intervention, such as giving direction, guiding and delegating.

Pitfall 10: You do not ask for regular feedback.

How do you know your coaching is being effective? How well is the contract working? What’s working well, what’s not working well? Continually checking progress is essential if the coaching relationship is to develop and become stronger. Finally, in relation to your feedback to your coachees, remember to PRAISE them for things they do well. Praise is the most powerful form of feedback. Many managers do not use enough appropriate praise.

There are many more mistakes or pitfalls we can look at. However, if you pay attention to the basics at this point then you will have good building blocks from which you can further develop your coaching skills.

Interesting thoughts:

“We must see people in terms of their potential, not their past performance”

“Building awareness, responsibility and self-belief is the goa/ of the coach”

A coaching management style/culture results in getting the job well-done for 250 days a year, developing people for 250days a year, and a lot of self-belief”

Higher than normal focused attention leads to higher than normal performance”

“We tend to get what we focus on.
If we fear failure, we are focused on failure and that is what we get”.
(John Whitmore)

” A coach is someone who helps you hear what you don’t want to hear, who helps you see what you don ‘t want to see, in order that you can be who you have always known you could be. “
(Tom Landry – Top US Football Coach)

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