Coach Your Employees. Avoid These 4 Mistakes!

Last Updated: Jun 18, 2021 | Executive Coaching, Leadership, Team Performance

By Steve Hansen, PCC. Recently I was coaching Tyler, who has two teams of 4 people each. We talked about what it takes to be an effective coach. While he had some experience using coaching as a method to help his team develop, he was feeling like he was not very good at it. As we began to look at his coaching behavior it became apparent that he was making four common coaching mistakes along the way. 

1. Tyler was talking too much

First, he was talking too much. Coaching is about understanding the other person’s thoughts and perspectives. Tyler needed to listen more, ask more questions, and let the conversation unfold with more silence on his part. He needed to give more time for clarity to come to the team member. The point is to remember you are interested in what your team members’ views are. The more open ended the questions you use, the more likely you will get to know their point of view.

2. Tyler was giving advice

While he was doing too much of the talking, he was also giving advice and/or direction rather than asking the open ended questions that would help his team member better understand what their next steps should be. As coaches we say “Ask, Don’t Tell.” This can be difficult when the answer is so clear to the manager. But helping the team member learn and become clearer about what to do by asking questions is a powerful developmental strategy. 

3. Tyler was forcing solutions

Another thing Tyler was doing was pushing for a solution to solve the issue quickly. This brings to mind the aphorism that “you can’t coach at managerial speed.” Coaching requires slowing down to let the team member come to a deeper understanding of what’s possible. Slow down, focus your attention and questions to facilitate more awareness for your team member, and let their discovery be your guide for further questions. I suggested that if Tyler didn’t have time to coach in any particular moment, it’s appropriate to give managerial direction and leave the coaching for when there is more space to slow down the action.

4. Tyler was not questioning assumptions

Finally, Tyler was not challenging team members enough when coaching them. People make decisions based on assumptions, and he was not challenging those assumptions when he felt they were not true. As coaches we need to listen to what’s said with a critical ear so we can ask better questions to help broaden the awareness of our team members. Just accepting their perspective may not move the conversation forward enough to create the learning that’s needed in the moment. You don’t have to accept what you are being told at face value. It’s okay to push back with an open ended question that challenges their assumptions or point of view.

Coaches create a learning environment

So listen, ask good questions, slow down, and challenge your team members’ assumptions in order to create the learning space needed for successful coaching. As a developmental tool, coaching can help create more awareness about what successful and effective management and leadership behavior looks like. Isn’t that what we are all looking to create after all?

To learn more about coaching your employees and strengthening your leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Steve.

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