What Holds Managers Back from Coaching: Part II

Organizations want managers who are skilled in coaching their people, to develop their abilities and help them grow as individuals and workers. Unfortunately, even though most managers receive training in coaching skills, the majority of them just aren’t engaging in coaching conversations that expand their employees’ awareness, thinking, and capability. Why is this? What holds managers back from coaching?

According to John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow (McGraw-Hill Education, 2010), the three most common barriers that stand in the way of coaching are:

  1. Misconceptions of what coaching is
  2. A desire to avoid difficult conversations
  3. No clear game plan for initiating and framing coaching conversations

In my previous post, I discussed the misconceptions of coaching and what coaching really is. Let’s focus on the next two barriers, a desire to avoid difficult conversations and having no game plan.

A Desire to Avoid Difficult Conversations

Oftentimes conversations seem to be difficult because we’ve constructed a story about the situation that says, “If I can’t control or change this situation, something bad will happen.” When that something feels vulnerable, wrong, missing, or at risk, we find ourselves negatively anticipating that conversation. This normal because our brain is wired to look for threats. In other words, negative anticipation is a survival reflex.

However, avoiding difficult conversations isn’t productive and doesn’t increase trust, honesty and transparency in the workplace. You can rewire your brain to shift from negative to positive anticipation by rewriting the story you’ve developed about the situation.

Rewriting the story requires you to:

  • be fully present with yourself
  • articulate your feelings about the situation
  • ask “What’s the opportunity here for me?” (rather than focusing on what’s wrong)

The next time you want to avoid a difficult conversation, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is it about this situation that I’m dreading?
  • What am I feeling about it?
  • What am I really feeling about it? (absolute truth-telling here)
  • What am I telling myself about these feelings? (say a little more about that and turn it into a narrative. For example: I’m telling myself that it’s unacceptable to only think about yourself)
  • Now, what are the facts about this situation?

No Game Plan for Coaching Conversations

Even after completing coach training, many managers still have trouble initiating coaching conversations, let alone developing a process that expedites desired results.

Many coaching models exist, but the best are short, simple, and easy to employ whenever coaching opportunities arise. Managers who say that they don’t have time to coach their employees assume that coaching conversations need to be formal meetings. Coaching doesn’t need to be scheduled as a 50-minute one-on-one session. With a solid coaching framework behind you, you can achieve positive results in as little as 10-minutes.

There are many coaching conversation models to follow, most with easy-to-remember frameworks, such as the GROW model, the FUEL model, and the FACTS system (We’ll be exploring these in future posts). There is no shortage of books and experts who claim that their system works best for creating positive outcomes. However, the key to becoming a successful coach is to learn a process and stick to it so that coaching conversations become natural and productive.

All coaching models generally consist of setting the stage, defining desired outcomes, exploring alternatives and barriers, deciding an action plan, and setting milestones for feedback and accountability. In my next post, I’ll provide some effective frameworks for having coaching conversations. Until then, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.