Both managers and the people they coach often have the wrong impression of coaching. Too often, we go to our managers looking for answers. Great managers tend not to give answers.
As people looking for coaching, too often we go to someone asking, “What should I be doing? Should I do this? What am I missing?
As coaches, we tend to feel we have to provide answers, “Go do this… Try this…This has worked for me before, try it….” Usually, that’s followed by, “Let me know what happens then we will talk about what’s next.”
Great coaches behave differently. They don’t provide the answers, in truth they may not know the answers. Instead they ask a lot of questions, “What are you thinking about in addressing this situation? Why did you do this? What do you think might be the right next steps? Why? What in your past experience tells you this might be a good approach? How might you look at this differently? How would that change what you do next?”
Great coaches recognize the best way to develop a person’s capability is to help them think, to help them discover new things, to provoke them to determine next steps, and to understand why they are choosing these. Great coaches recognize the way to help people develop their capabilities is to learn how to think. To help them learn how to analyze, assess, evaluate what they face. To learn how to determine the next actions.
It’s so easy to all into the trap of giving answers, even if our intention is to help our people learn, develop, and grow. In the press of day to day activities, or the drive to achieve our goals, or the desire to want to be helpful, providing the answers keeps people from learning, improving, growing.
If we have a problem or challenge, it’s much easier if someone can just tell us what to do. It’s easier to rely on someone that has more experience to just tell us what has worked for them.
The problem is, those people who “know the answers,” may not know the answer we need, they aren’t involved in the situation, they are missing context.
The problem with seeking or giving the answers, we never develop the capability to figure things out, to get better. We are always dependent on someone else.
This limits our own capability/growth/career development. It limits the capacity of our people. They aren’t improving their productivity and performance, at least not on their own. It limits the ability of our organizations to grow.
Sometimes, it’s frustrating being with a great coach. “Just give me the answers!!! I don’t have time for this Socratic dialog!” Or as a manager, we want to be helpful, it’s so easy to quickly provide a suggestion. Engaging in these discussions of shared learning takes time–often time we don’t feel we have.
Forcing ourselves and our people to learn how to think and figure things out is the only way we develop and grow organizationally and individually.
Great coaching is all about improving our abilities to think, learn, and grow.