Monday, August 22, 2011

To Coach or NOT to Coach

I had the pleasure of speaking at a lunch and learn last week at one of my favorite company's headquarters here in Atlanta. The topic was coaching and the audience consisted of HR Managers and Directors.

Most of the discussion centered around how HR can influence managers to use coaching to increase performance.

After reading a lot of material on the subject and a really good recent blogpost from Kris Dunn, I have decided there are 2 camps on this subject:

1) Get rid of the performance review and replace it with coaching sessions
2) FORCE managers to coach in the current performance management process

I think there is a happy medium that uses coaching skills to produce RESULTS. Really? Coaching can impact results and that is how HR can influence managers to be coaches. I think HR managers must educate line managers on the benefits of coaching employees:

1) Employees have cited the need for feedback as an engagement driver. X'ers and Y'ers have come into the workplace expecting feedback. Managers have not been trained on effective coaching there is a disconnect...big time.

2) Goal attainment. Think about a sports coach with the goal of winning. There are countless hours spent on coaching the athletes getting them ready for the game.

3) Employee Development. Managers can coach employees on many subjects but the WIIFM for the manager is an employee that has developed a skill that he/she didn't have before.

Back to the lunch and learn....when asked why managers DO NOT coach employees, the audience said:

1) Managers don't have time

2) They don't like confrontation

3) Our culture is one of getting things done and fast...all about results.

My answer to the objections above have to make the time because employee's engagement at work is stronger when feedback is 2-way. Coaching is not confrontational it is collaborative. And for #3...coaching is about getting those results, with clear goals and objectives set, results will follow.

Sometimes, coaching is seen as a punitive activity. "We do coaching when someone is going to get fired as a last step." If this sounds familiar, then some education has to be created around why coaching is positive and needed in the organization.

So I ask you, coach or not to coach?


Debbie King said...


Thanks for raising such an important topic. I agree with you - employers should be moving towards a more collaborative and interactive performance management conversation rather than the appraisal to be in touch with the expectations of employees.

But I also think we need to be careful of mandating that every supervisor be a coach. What do you think of a two pronged approach -------

You and I have worked with a lot of work styles, and some of them just aren't interested or comfortable with the "people-side" of business. I'm concerned that forcing those managers to be the coach, when that's the last thing they want to do, may result in no performance conversations at all.

But perhaps we can give these managers another option. What if managers who do not have a preference to coach work with their team members on day-to-day performance feedback, but also allow them the flexibility of utilizing a third-party coach (external or internal) that would actually coach the team members on skill and leadership development?

That way, the process keeps moving. Employees get feedback, and the coaching is provided by someone interested and comfortable in the coaching role.

From my coaching experiences, I do believe an organization would want to make sure the managers assigned as coaches have the confidence and the tool kit to properly coach so there are no psychological incidents, or lawsuits. In a coaching situation the relationship has to be grounded in trust, confidentializety and respect. In some cases I think it might be awkward for the employee and boss to have open and frank conversations. That's when a third-party coach could also help.

Thanks for another great blog!

With a smile,

Unknown said...

Hey Debbie:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

I agree forcing managers to coach when that is not a strength would compromise the effectiveness of the conversation.

I like the third party option, sometimes a third party can give the conversation what it needs...and that is perspective!

As usual thanks for all your insight!


Rita said...

To coach of course! Love your blogs!

Unknown said...

Hi Rita:

Thanks for continuing to read my blog. You are the best!!


Leslie Goldenberg said...

The word "coach" means different things to different people. If I've ready your post correctly, it looks like a synonym for "give constructive feedback." That would hopefully generate helpful 2-way communication (as your post points out). Still, the accent seems to be on the manager telling the employee something.

In another context, the word "coach" is a synonym for "ask powerful questions." Again, helpful 2-way communication ensues, but the accent is on the employee reflecting and telling the manager something.

Both versions of "coaching" have value. I find that the term means different things to different people and it's helpful to clarify the intended (or assumed) meaning.

Unknown said...


Thanks for reading my blog and for pointing out that coaching means different things to different people.

You are so right, it has many connotations depending on the company culture and how coaching has been used historically.

The key like you said is to define what we mean by coaching and set expectations accordingly.

Thanks for your insight!