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Coaching And Being Coached

by David Brock on November 7th, 2010

The whole topic of coaching stirs up a lot of controversy and misunderstanding.  I’ve decided dive in and stir up the pot a little and will be writing a few blog posts on various aspects of coaching over the next couple of weeks.  I hope to stimulate a good discussion so welcome all your comments.

Coaching is one of the highest leverage activities a manager or leader can to.  Developing the capabilities of people to perform at the highest levels possible, to execute the strategies and priorities of the organization is the core of any managers job.  Being coachable is one of the highest leverage personal development activities any sales professional can undertake.  Actively seeking coaching, actively engaging your coach is critical to each of our personal development.

Active engagement of the coach and the person being coached is critical for coaching to have an impact.  The person being coached has to be coachable.  The person doing the coaching has to be engaged both in coaching and learning, as well.

Coaching is a two way exchange, it is a dialog, each person must take responsibility for challenging and engaging the other.  If a sales person expects to be told what to do and how to do it, the coaching will have little sustainable impact.  If the coach enters the dialog expecting to tell people what to do and how to do it, the impact will not be sustainable.  At it’s core, coaching is about both the coach and the person being coached to think about what’s being done, to challenge what’s being done, to question things and to question each other. 

It requires both the coach and the person being coached to be thought-ful.  I don’t mean “politeness,” (though that’s important), it’s about thinking.  Effective coaching may require both the coach and the person being coached to challenge their own positions, what they think, their preconceived notions, their biases, their previous experiences.  It may require each person to change their positions or their point of view.

As much as coaching is viewed as a developmental or learning activity for the person being coached, it is also a developmental activity for the coach.  In each coaching session, effective coaches realize they are learning as much as the person they are coaching.  As coaches, we are constantly learning how to listen better, how to probe to understand, how to engage, how to understand a different point of view, how to give up some of our biases or preconceived notions.  As coaches, if we aren’t prepared to listen, learn, and develop ourselves, we will never be as effective as we might be.

Coaching and being coached is a process of discovery–self discovery on the parts of the coach and the person being coached.  Learning from each other, working together to develop ideas and approaches we might not have developed individually.  Does this happen in every coaching session—probably not, but we should always challenge ourselves to learn and discover in each session.

Coaching and being coached is a journey for both parties.  We start at a point, leverage different events as opportunities or milestones in the journey we are taking together.  These events happen every day–after a sales call, in a pipeline review, as a part of a meeting.  It’s an ongoing process, not an event.  Between the coach and the person being coached, there is a history or experiences that each builds on–or done improperly, is torn down.  Trust is at the core of coaching.  We have to trust each other and what we are achieving together.

Coaching is a contact sport!  Are you fulfilling your responsibilities as a coach?  Are you coachable?  Without both, it doesn’t work

In my next post, I’ll focus on the coach and different ways of coaching—we can’t rely on just one approach, we have to change based on the circumstance, the person, and a specific moment in time. 

  1. Hey Dave,

    I am glad you are going to write about coaching. It is a very important subject.
    Depending on your station it is the most important thing a leader can do. It is what helps you employees improve, but also helps you improve.

    Like we always say, you do not know something until you can teach it.

    Helping others really helps you improve and become better. By spending your time working with others, listening to their feedback and providing your own your whole department/company will improve.

  2. Dissecting something so that it can be taught presents the coach with new viewpoints. The coaching environment can be edifying and invigorating, bringing life back to stale topics. I’m looking forward to your series with great anticipation

  3. Tony Ede permalink

    David – this is an interesting topic and one which I am seeing as a huge area of potential development in business as I see my partner go through the process of a coaching qualification.

    What I am seeing is that just being a manager does not in any way qualify a person to be an effective coach.

    Far too often I see managers try and coach staff in the best way (insert “their” way) to perform a role when coaching is not teaching.

    Coaching is about drawing the best skills intrinsic to the person out to perform a task as effectively as possible.

    Sometimes there are issues not relating to the work environment, in other words personal issues, that stop people from achieveing “best practice” or achieveing higher performance outcomes, and I would content that many middle management in organisations are ill equiped to deal or even understand these sorts of issues and eventually the people leave or become distablising influences in a team environment.

    I would suggest that the already identified high performing group would be better suited to be in a mentoring program rather than being coached. The whole process needs to be implemented so that the organisation is a learning growing organisim

    • Tony, you make a number of very interesting and important observations. I’ll try to take on a few:

      1. The state of management skill (at all levels) in coaching is abysmal. I think it’s a combination of factors. Some managers don’t (for reasons beyond me) know the single most important part of their job is coaching and developing their people. They spend their time as administrators. Others recognize they need to coach, but have had no training and get bad coaching themselves. Finally others just shouldn’t be managers. When a person moves into managmeent they need to know their job is different–they have to get things done through their people, this means they have to continually coach. They should be hired based on their potential abilities to coach, traing and coached themselves, and measured on coaching effectiveness.
      2. I may have a little different perspective on some of the “environmental” or non work issues. It’s a delicate area. Certainly non work things impact people’s performance. The manager can’t really get into those areas. Their job is not to “fix” people, their job is to coach them in performing at the highest level possible in their current job and to fulfill their long term potential. They need to focus their coaching in these areas. If the outside issues become too big an impact on the individual’s performance or on the team, sometimes suggesting they get professional counseling, outside help, take a leave or ultimately separating them from the company is all the manager can to.
      3. I make a distinction between coaching and mentoring. Coaching focuses primarily on the person’s performance in their current role or future roles in the company. The primary person responsible for doing this is the manager. Mentoring focuses on the person’s long term development, goals, and aspirations—which may have little to do with their current job, role, or company. Everyone needs a mentor. It’s difficult–even a conflict of interest– for a manager to serve as a mentor, because what a mentor might be working with the individual on might be in conflict with current role. I like to see people having muliple mentors—many outside the company.

      Thanks for the great comment and discussion!

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