Should You Give Your Direct Report A Coach?

By Tom Henschel, Executive Coach and Facilitator

During one of our coaching conversations, Teqouyah told me about Martin, a direct report of hers. She was considering getting Martin a coach but wasn’t sure he was a good candidate. I asked what her reservations were.

“He’s defensive,” she said. “That’s part of why I want him to get coaching. But I’m not certain he’s coachable.”

“Have you asked him if he wants a coach?” I asked.

She smiled sheepishly, “Uh, duh! That would be a good idea, wouldn’t it?”

I smiled, “If he says yes, I’d encourage you to consider four qualities. If he has two or three of them, then I’d guess he could be a good prospect for coaching.”

She picked up her pen, asking, “Great! What are they?”

“Let’s do one at a time,” I said. “The first quality is curiosity. Think about Martin. Do you see him shift from expert to learner? Is he curious?”

“Not very,” she said. “He likes being the expert. He’s not exactly condescending, but he’s about a hair’s breadth away from it.”

I said to her, “One reason I think our coaching has been so rich, Tequoyah, is because you’re naturally interested in what’s going on around you. You ask questions about what you observe. Curiosity accelerates your coaching.”

“I don’t think that’ll happen with Martin. What’s next?”

Self-reflection. The question I would ask you about Martin is this: does he think about himself? Not just assessing himself against others in a comparative way. But does he think about his thinking? Does he ask, ‘How could I have done that better?’”

“Not often. That’s another liability I was hoping the coaching might address.”

“And it might, Tequoyah. We don’t know yet.”

“So give me number three,” she said.

Self-responsibility. The question here is whether Martin does what he says he will do. Is there some sense that his word is his contract?”

“Actually, yes, he’s good with that. I think it’s part of his self-image. He’s a great performer.”

“Okay!” I said. “So that’s one quality Martin has that might make him receptive to coaching. He values being accountable.”  

She laughed. “I’m relieved. So what’s number four?”

Resiliency. Is the person basically healthy? Are they self-managed? How long does it take them to get their balance back when their world gets rocked? Is the person basically stable?”

“With Martin, I’d say yes. He really never shows much of anything except his game face. But I guess that means, yes, he seems resilient.”

I shrugged. “Martin has two of the four. I’d say, yes, he might be a great coaching candidate.”

“Would you know from talking with him?”

“Maybe. It’s not always easy to spot red flags during a ‘get-to-know-you’ conversation.”

Tequoyah did get a coach for Martin. And it went well. She found those four qualities helped her assess all her direct reports’ growth potential. Curiosity, Self-reflection, Self-responsibility, and Resilience are good indicators for a leader’s readiness for coaching. 

For more about “coach-ability,” and the benefits of executive coaching for you and your team, schedule a consultation with Tom.