4 wrong ideas about coaching that hinder your leadership development
It’s not new to say that coaching has grown in popularity during the last years and that, in parallel, people and organisations more and more seek help in adapting to a continually changing scenario. Companies need employees who can produce results and who always keep motivated. Therefore, what can make a real difference is the human factor. For more than any other factor, people are responsible for the success or failure of any organisation. Leading people and helping them to perform well under uncertain circumstances has turned into a real challenge.
Coaching is a strategic tool and an important skill for leaders. It has become a core competency needed for anyone who manages people. Coaching has proven to be one of the most powerful one-on-one management techniques for getting the best from employees. Coaching techniques can be used to motivate, encourage, counsel, teach, challenge, and correct or modify performance.
Unfortunately, coaching is often practiced in ways that produce disappointing results. The real value of coaching cultures is achieved when leaders truly understand what coaching is, and what it isn’t, and know how to incorporate it into their leadership style.
Having been in the field of coaching for the past 15 years, I have identified some myths and misconceptions about coaching as a leadership style. Here are four wrong ideas about coaching.
- Coaching is just leading people with questions
That’s definitely not true. Questions are a tool used by many professionals: salespeople, doctors, lawyers, journalists, but all of them use them for different reasons. It’s all about the intention you have when you ask a question. Coaching questions aim at igniting learning and provoking action. If the intention is a different one, then you are not coaching. Besides, there is more than asking questions in the coaching tool box.
- Coaching takes a lot of time
You can hardly talk about coaching and not mentioning the investment in time that is needed. The paradoxical thing about it, is that you need to invest time to win time. That is what happens with coaching. When you manage to integrate coaching into your conversations, you will save yourself a lot of time because you are helping others to learn how to think for themselves. The more you practice, the quicker you will develop your coaching skills and see the benefits of it.
- Coaching is basically the same as mentoring
It’s true that coaching shares some basic fundamentals with mentoring and other disciplines. The main difference though is that a mentor is someone who helps an individual to get where the mentor already is or was. That means that the mentor adopts the role of expert, since he shares his own experience, gives advice and offers ideas. On the other hand, coaching is a collaborative relationship whereby the coach helps a person to achieve his own goals, accessing his own experience, talents and resources. Some benefits of coaching, compared to mentoring, are that the person being coached learns more during the process, is less dependent on the leader’s support, improves his self-knowledge and learns a method he can apply to himself (self-coaching).
- Coaching is getting people to do what I want them to do, with their involvement
When you try to get people to do exactly what you want them to do, you are not coaching, you are directing with questions or even manipulating. Working on your own interests, priorities and goals can provoke that people close themselves off from learning and act defensively against such manipulative approaches. If you want to coach others, you will need to prioritise their agenda, concerns and challenges beyond your own ones. If you want people to do something which is mandatory or there is little leeway, tell them clearly and explain them why things need to be done in a certain manner. Don’t try to coach them in this case.
As you might have concluded already, all these misconceptions are based on a lack of real knowledge of what coaching is about and a lack of practice in order to fully integrate it. If you want to become a better leader by enhancing your coaching skills, you will need to have a firm commitment to change your own behaviour, willingness to improve and a clear vision of the type of professional you aspire to be.
About the Author:
José Miguel Moreiro is the Founding Director of Coaching 4 Results, a consultancy specialized in Leadership Development based in Barcelona. He is the representative for Spain of Global Growth Group.