Magazine article Talent Development

Courageous Coaching Isn't Easy, but It's Your Job: Managers Often Give One of Four Reasons for Not Coaching Their Direct Reports

Magazine article Talent Development

Courageous Coaching Isn't Easy, but It's Your Job: Managers Often Give One of Four Reasons for Not Coaching Their Direct Reports

Article excerpt

Last month, I got a phone call from my niece. She's a bright, talented, upbeat, and hard-working person, but she sounded deflated, angry, upset, and frustrated.

"My manager never spends time coaching me," she said. "He says as long as he's not giving me negative feedback, then I'm doing OK. I don't want to do just OK. I want to know that he cares, for him to help me get better at my job."

Calling all managers: Could my niece be talking about you?

Think about it. What's the most important part of your job? I believe it's courageously coaching your direct reports. After all, their success, the department's success, the company's success, and your success all depend on results--and you get these results through your staff. Here are a few benefits of coaching them:

* higher engagement and commitment

* higher productivity

* stronger team culture

* closer bonds to you as a manager

* heightened creativity

* increased risk-taking and


Not sure what I mean by courageous coaching? Here it is: "Saying the right thing and asking the right questions at the right time to the right people in the right manner"--even when it isn't easy.

Courageous coaching means giving people specific and balanced feedback about their performance and career aspirations, not dumping all your negative thoughts on them at once. It means letting people know what you think of their work soon after you see it, not waiting for an annual performance review. It means addressing individuals in private, not chastising them in front of a group. It means asking your staff what they'll do with your feedback, not just issuing commands.

Sound difficult? Well, it is--which is why many managers don't practice coaching. I have interviewed more than 500

managers in corporate America about coaching, and the most common reasons for not doing so tend to fall into four major categories (I could say "excuses"): fear, assumptions, time, and "I don't know how."

Do you use fear as an excuse?

Exactly what are you afraid of? When I ask this question, these are the responses I typically hear: "I may hurt her feelings," "He may cry," and "She will get defensive."

Aren't we talking about helping someone be more successful? If we worry about hurt feelings, your employee may never get the help he needs. The phrases, "No one ever told me that before" and "I wish I had heard that sooner" are often signs of someone whose manager was unwilling to be a coach.

You aren't protecting anyone by not being truthful. Managers need to worry less about being nice and more about being kind. If your feedback is specific and delivered in a thoughtful and caring way, the coachee may not be happy in the moment; however, it gives her the opportunity and support to make changes.

So yes, the direct report initially may be upset (tears, anger, and defensiveness are common reactions). Anticipate that. Give your employee time, then help her create a follow-up plan for improvement. And don't worry about having all the answers when it comes to an improvement plan. I have good news: You don't have to. If you ask good questions, the coachee often will come up with her own solutions.

Do you make assumptions?

When you have a problem with your employees, do you tell yourself they won't change no matter what you do? Do you assume the problem will go away on its own? Do you count on someone else coming along to solve the problem?

Those are all poor excuses for avoiding courageous coaching. …

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