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To Coach or Not to Coach?

2 min read

A coach helps a client achieve a balance of reflection and action that leads to meaningful and measurable progress.

Over the years I have delivered an Ariel Group program which teaches coaching skills to managers. Somewhere in the middle of the program, like clockwork, I hear this: “You know, this is great stuff…and I’d personally love to report to someone who uses these skills….but honestly, I just don’t have time to coach.”

Ah, time. That vexing, rude thing. It STRETCHES out when you are in a deadly boring meeting….and it ZIPS by when you are facing down a major deadline.

But consider this: how much time does it take for you to hire and train a new employee when your frustrated high potential decides you are not invested in her growth and development? How much time slips away when you have to “save” the team’s work because, when push comes to shove, no one has the skill set or thought process that you do?

Executive coaching as a profession has grown exponentially over the last 20 years because it has a proven track record of getting results. For example, a 1993 study of 370 coaching participants by David Peterson saw participants improving from the 50th to the 93rd percentile in their performance. A 1998 study by Davis and Petchenik found that, compared to other managers, those that had been coached received an average of 50% higher salary increases.

Coaching has been proven to help people change in a way that matters. But how does this change actually happen? My theory is this: A coach helps a client achieve a balance of reflection and action that leads to meaningful and measurable progress.

Too much action without reflection and we become exhausted, burnt out, and may wind up on a path that conflicts with our values. Too much reflection without action and we fall victim to “analysis paralysis” or stagnation. A good coach will help her client discover the perfect balance to maximize healthy progress and development.

Think you might have time to try a few techniques? Here are two quick ways to promote reflection and action in the people you want to develop:

Coaching for Reflection & Action

  • Reflect back what you heard: Check for understanding after you have listened. “What I heard you say was….did I get that right?” Taking a moment to do this can make a person feel they have your FULL attention and that you care enough to make certain you understand. And sometimes simply hearing this reflection sparks a realization or an important new thought.
  • Ask “What can you do right now?“: Ask your direct report, “What is one thing you can do immediately to help you make progress in this situation?” Encourage steps in a positive direction, no matter how small. If the person is stuck, do a quick brainstorm and and write down every possible idea you both can think of. Then challenge them to try one and make sure to check back to find out the results.

To coach or not to coach…is it even a question?


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