Are You Coaching or Just Talking?

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“Hi Bill. Please have a seat. I asked you to come in because I’m starting a new program where I will be more formally coaching my direct reports. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to let you know what I’m thinking and to get an idea of your goals.”

“Thank you Dave, I think that’s a great ide…”

“Well Bill, the companies been in a bit of a downturn lately and in examining the numbers, I’ve noticed your section’s production has been down some. I’m wondering what you’re planning to do about that.”

“Yes, production has been down. We don’t have backlogs yet, but the hiring freeze means I can’t replace Mary and John. I’ve been looking at some alternatives and…”

“Yes, yes, I know the about the freeze, but it’s your responsibility to work with what you have. I know you’ll turn things around very soon. Now, let’s talk about you. Where do you see yourself in 2 or 3 years?”

“Well, I enjoy what I’m doing now but I think by then I’ll be ready for more respons…”

“That’s great Bill, but I think you should really concentrate on your section and bringing it out of the hole. Bill, I’ve enjoyed our talk. We’ll meet again in about a month. Next time though, I’d like to hear more about what you think. It didn’t seem like you had much to say this time.”

Ever been in a “coaching” session like this? It isn’t very helpful is it? How could this session have been more constructive?

First, Dave should clearly define the objective of the coaching session. He said he wanted to “get an idea of your goals.” It quickly became obvious he just wanted to tell Bill to do better.

Next, Bill expressed a genuine concern about his section’s staffing. Dave should have anticipated that and been prepared to help Bill consider alternatives. Coaching that is supportive and collaborative is much more effective than simply haranguing employees.

Finally, coaching involves a healthy dose of listening. Bill started to tell Dave that he was considering some options to his personnel shortage problem but Dave didn’t hear him. Had he listened, he might have learned that Bill had discovered a bottleneck in the production process and was already seeing a difference.

Are you really coaching your people or just talking at them? Do you have clear objectives for them? Are you using coaching sessions to genuinely help? Most importantly, are you listening?

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