Coaching is not about being a “nice person”. It’s about performance. It’s about bringing the same structure and creativity to your interactions with your team as you bring to solving business problems.
There are seven major myths surrounding what it takes to be a good leader-coach. Here’s an attempt to set the record straight.
Myth 1: Coaching is about helping others
Reality: There are many tangible, selfish and acceptable reasons for an owner-manager to become a great coach.
In fact, team leaders who are good coaches find the personal and organisational payoffs are so high that they rarely kick the habit. Examples of payoffs include:
More motivated workforce. If people are really going to perform, they must be self-motivated. Self-motivation comes from the intrinsic motivation that is specific to each person (e.g., recognition, work-life balance, respect, etc.). The key to fostering intrinsic motivation in your people is simple: Put time and energy into practicing and refining a set of coaching-inspired management skills.
Stronger following. Every leader needs a following. If you help others, they tend to help you. Coaching comes down to unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance by helping them gain greater self-awareness and alignment with their values, strengths and goals. This is exactly what people want in a manager — it is no secret that the majority of employees value learning and professional development above most other aspects of a job.
Better performance. Typically, when leaders are coaches, they’re focused on helping their team gain both short-term and long-term wins. Coaching leaders are focused on continuous momentum, helping people gain traction by gaining short-term wins while working toward long term goals.
Greater innovation. Companies don’t have ideas, only people do – and it is the interactions between and among people from which innovation and insight emerge. Today’s leadership is about creating the conditions in which those interactions are most likely to multiply.
More time for yourself. As a result of a more inspired, motivated and results-focused team you are freed up from a lot of mundane day-to-day tasks. You can either spend some more time on personal passions or on higher quality work for your business.
More fun. You and others working in coaching orientated teams tend to enjoy each other’s company more.
Myth 2: Coaching is just for people who have problems, not for successful people
Reality: Coaching helps the good and the best get even better.
Coaching works best for motivated performers who want to achieve even more or who may feel “stuck” in certain areas of performance or behaviour. Many of the top leaders in the FTSE 100 and the Fortune 100 have their own coaches. Coaching is often used to support good performers who are facing difficult challenges. Poor performers tend not to take coaching seriously and may even resist being coached. Coaching is not a substitute for managing. It is the manager’s responsibility to help staff perform at their best, so if someone is underperforming because they do not have direction, support or appropriate training from their manager, coaching would be ineffective and so is unsuitable.
Myth 3: Coaching is ‘touchy feely’, like therapy?
Reality: Coaching is not a soft option.
The purpose of coaching is to build an individual’s strengths and alleviate weaknesses and extends beyond the workplace and to home life and out elsewhere. By its very nature, it addresses attitudes, feelings, relationships and other personal areas, but it must be emphasized that it is not designed to deal with serious emotional problems. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability and follow-through.
Myth 4: Coaching requires a lot of time
Reality: The best coaching comes in small doses.
Many people believe that coaching comes in large quantities. But with a bit of practice, you don’t need to change into a jogging suit every time you want to provide coaching. Small investments of time, – as little as five minutes – can yield tangible increases in performance, especially for a team leader.
Myth 5: Coaching is the same as giving feedback
Reality: There are many other important coaching tools and habits.
While many people think that coaching is merely providing feedback and suggestions, the truth is that insightful feedback is only one tool in the coach’s toolbox. For example, good coaches typically master the art of effective questioning. Coachees can often learn more from a coach asking, “How well do you think you did; what might you do differently next time?”, than from being told, “here’s what you did wrong, and here’s what to do next time”. There are also other tools, like the GROW approach and motivation techniques.
Myth 6: Coaching is the same as mentoring
Reality: Mentors offer advice on what to do; Coaches help you discover the right answer for you.
A mentor is the “sage on the stage,” while the coach is the “guide on the side.” Mentoring is usually informal, open-ended and intended to provide advice and answers to questions about the organisation. Coaching has clearly defined goals, time limits and mutual accountabilities. Coaches don’t give you answers or tell you what to do; coaches help you discover answers for yourself.
Myth 7: Coaching is about work
Reality: Good coaching will spread to other areas of life.
Those who develop the coaching skills in business usually find they are better able to help their friends, partners and children. In that respect, coaching is clearly a life skill.
Using coaching does not mean that leaders should no longer direct and supervise their teams, but rather that their management style becomes more adapted to a given situation and responds better to the needs of their team members.