Not Coaching

Posted by on Apr 27, 2019 in Blog, Featured | 1 comment

Not Coaching

When I was consulting, I was never hired by an organization to coach a manager. Instead, I was brought in to strengthen a team, improve a process. or change the culture. The work often led to coaching, but not always.

Coaching has become a big business over the past 15 years and I continue to have mixed feelings about it. I object to its “cookie cutter” approach.

 My first introduction to this term, coaching, came when I was working as an internal consultant at Mattel about 12 years ago. I was offsite trying to bring together two functions that were in conflict. Joining me was an outside consultant, Steve, who had worked previously with the management of these two functions.

Steve had just received his coaching certificate and was excited about it. During a break on the first day, Steve started up the following conversation:

“I’m really excited about becoming a coach.”

“That’s great, Steve. You’ll love it. I do a bit of coaching myself.”

“Really? What steps do you use?”


“Yeah…what process do you go through to coach a leader? What steps do you take?”

“Well, I don’t have steps. It depends on the circumstances. Most of the time I create a contract with the manager. But not always. Sometimes I just listen. Sometimes I encourage the manager to pull his or her team together to get the issues out on the table. And sometimes I suggest that the manager have a conversation with his or her boss. But I think I always focus on helping managers see their own contribution to the problems they are facing. That’s at the core of my work.”

“ Yeah, I understand all of that. But don’t you follow a step-by-step process?”

“No, I guess not. Again, it depends on the circumstances. Often, changing the topic or the setting is helpful. For example, I like to get managers to talk about personal things like being a father or a mother. They can then see similarities in their behavior with their own kids and their direct reports. Or getting out of the office and taking a walk sometimes frees people up. I just discover things as I go.”

“That’s not coaching. It’s certainly useful– I’m not criticizing it. But it’s definitely not coaching.”

One Comment

  1. Hi John,

    Reading this makes me very happy. I’ve been coaching for some years now and I have exactly the same approach as you describe. I love to listen to personal stories and go out for a walk to get them out of their day to day surroundings.

    Why does it make me happy?

    Because I was certified as a coach about 10 years ago and was handed several step by step methods. These methods never stuck and I still follow my gut feeling and make personal adaptations where needed. I sometimes wondered whether I did the right thing. I have my answer. Thanks John!


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