“I’ve been sent to you for coaching.” How many professional coaches have heard those words, I wonder. Quite a few, I imagine. And almost all of those people “sent” for coaching were in fact, sent for “fixing”. There was something perceived as “wrong” with them, and the magic of coaching is the next step in a desperate (or, more often, ill-informed) line manager’s progress towards some sort of disciplinary or that well-trodden path of despair, the restructure.
So what is wrong with “fixing”? In whose opinion does my new client need “fixing”? What is it that is seen to be “wrong”? If it is a reflection of a workplace relationship (or lack of it), then since when is a relationship only one way? The line manager may well have a role to play in the perceived problem, and would invest their time wisely in a little self-reflection. What could they have done differently, which could have made a little difference? What benefit could have accrued from just a little difference? Without giving it a go, the line manager will never know, will they? So how will they ever know what coaching could actually do for their line report, when they don’t actually understand the issues in play?
Coaching cannot be simply applied like a sticking plaster as some sort of last-ditch remedial effort, if actually it is the line manager who has allowed the workplace relationship to falter to the extent they can no longer cope. This isn’t leadership – it isn’t even competent management. It is an admission of failure by the line manager. Is there something actually “wrong” with my new client? Or are they simply better suited to doing something else, which could give them more reward, sense of satisfaction …or even joy? There is always the possibility that my new client is simply a square peg in a round hole, and they may not be too sure they want to lose their corners just yet … at least not for this job. Coaching here can help someone find their true purpose, and analyse where their current role feeds that need … and what might feed that need more closely.
Allowing your team to be developed and move on is the mark of a confident leader. Coaching is all about enhancing what is there on the surface, by helping the client to dig deeper and find answers within themselves. Coaching is about positive progression. Coaching is all about enhancing the client’s understanding of self and the confidence that grows from that. Coaching offers focus, new ideas, a plan.
So what are the coach and new client to do? Simple – start by focusing on the positives. What’s good to keep and build on? What works well now? It might be helpful to identify the areas of difference between the new client and their line manager – might a double-header coaching session help to explore communication difficulties in the relationship? What are the areas where the client can sort things out? Where can’t they do this? Helping clients understand the boundaries for their areas of control is crucial in coaching; many clients’ issues arise from trying to resolve issues which they can’t control. That’s a recipe for stress, and best avoided. Coaching can be used to celebrate skills and restore confidence in areas where the client’s faith in their own abilities might have been shaken by the workplace difficulties. Coaching will re-motivate. Coaching can also help the client to remember what it was they loved about the job in the first place. And if there is no love any more, then the coaching can help the client to pursue proactive career development options. This can help return the client to some sort of contentment in their current role, and can also help create a less painful departure from the current job, into a job which is a much better “fit”.
So whether you think you have a problem that needs “fixing” (glass half empty) or whether you have an employee who would benefit from some support to give of their best (glass half full), consider what you want from them. Show yourself to be the leader you are, and that your team deserve. Employ a professional, qualified coach to work with your team – or even with you – and reap the benefits. And remember that as the leader, you have a key role to play, making conspicuous decisions to do what is right for your team, because that will result in what is right for your organisation and your customers. You may well have read something in this piece which struck a chord. Maybe it made you think of how you had been treated in the past? Maybe it even reminded you how you had been considering treating someone in your team. If this is the case, or even if you would like to discuss the points I have made, please comment below or get in touch, and let’s have a conversation about how I can help.
Image: Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Unsplash