Why You Can't Coach Your Team - Blog Post


Why You Can’t Coach Your Team


My role in work is as an executive leadership coach and organizational culture coach. This means that I coach leaders who work in organizations. This form of coaching is by definition “a result-oriented, systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of life experience and goal attainment in the personal and/or professional lives of normal, non-clinical clients.”

Thus, as a leadership coach, I am holding the agenda of the client to meet whatever goals they feel are relevant to them. What this also means is that I don’t tell a client what goals they should be establishing or achieving for themselves.

The word “coach” gets used in many forms, often without a clear distinction as to what is meant when applying it as a verb or as a leadership style. Leaders are often instructed to “coach” their teams or “coach” an individual who reports to them. Ideally, this is referring to using the leadership style of coaching. But a distinction is necessary at this point as this is usually where the confusion begins.

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard began to describe coaching as a leadership style in their model, Situational Leadership, sometime in the 1960’s. They explain that this style is best utilized with those who have a high level of willingness for a specific task, but may not have the immediate ability that is needed. These individuals still require direction and supervision as well as positive reinforcement for encouragement.

Dan Goleman offers a different version of coaching as a leadership style, and included it as one of six leadership styles. He defines coaching as “focusing more on personal development than on immediate work-related tasks.” He goes on to explain that this style works best when individuals are aware of their short-comings and want to make a change.

In direct contrast with Blanchard’s definition, Goleman’s coaching style is less focused on work tasks and more focused on the overall growth and development of the employee. This style has another key distinction in that “leaders are willing to put up with short-term failure if it furthers long-term learning” in their employees. It may come as no surprise that, according to Goleman, this is found to be the least utilized of the six styles.

Thus, there are relevant and fundamental differences between coaching as a leadership style, coaching as a coach, and using the verb “coach.” First, the coach is not attached to any specific outcome or result for the client, and is absolutely supportive of the client “failing” if this results in learning along the way.

Also, the solutions to the challenges faced by the “coachee” are assumed to already lie within this person. Thus, regular utilization of questions and a lack of “telling” are found in coaching. Additionally, the client is establishing his or her own personal learning agenda and goals, unlike a typical leader-follower relationship in which there are very specific results and outcomes that must be attained.

In a traditional leader-follower relationship, the leader is attached to an outcome and getting results. In this scenario, the word “coach” is used as a kinder way to describe a corrective action that is going to be taken with an underperforming employee.

Which, as we’ve now learned, isn’t actually coaching. 🙂


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