The Leader as Coach – 3 Common Traps to Avoid

A leader’s ability to coach effectively can really foster the development of the people they lead.  But like any leadership style, using a coaching style incorrectly has its drawbacks—especially if you are new to it.  Here are a few of the common mistakes.

The leader does the heavy lifting.  To be effective, a coaching conversation must be a two-way discussion.  Both the leader and the person being coached (i.e., the direct report) need to be engaged.  However, if the coachee doesn’t fully participate, it’s easy for the leader to do more of the heavy lifting.  This is like the leader driving a car with the direct report in the back seat, enjoying the ride.  It’s the opposite of what is meant to happen. Both parties must be active participants in the discussion.  When using a coach-like style, the leader’s job is to draw out the brilliance of the person being coached.

The leader creates dependency.  When a leader does all the work, it can create a dependency on the part of the direct report.  For instance, the direct report asks the leader to help with issues they can easily handle themselves—or they delay action or avoid a decision on a task.  In extreme cases, the direct report starts abdicating all decision making to the leader.  When this happens, a leader’s own work time gets eaten up, which can result in their needing to bring home work that could have been completed at the office.

The leader talks when they shouldn’t.  When leaders facilitate a coaching session, some find it hard not to offer up good ideas—especially if the coachee is quietly contemplating what to say. This scenario is fairly common since most people need time to think about a topic before they chime in.  A leader who wants to be more coach-like needs to give people the gift of silence—which is easier said than done.  One tactic I’ve suggested to clients is to envision themselves sitting on their hands versus jumping in to help.  If the coach can stay silent, they are less likely to impart their own knowledge and more apt to draw out brilliance from their direct report.

When appropriate, using a coaching style can be instrumental to the development of others.  When leaders encourage their people to do the work and to come up with their own ideas and solutions, direct reports become engaged and step into their growth, which is a beautiful thing!

Are there any other traps you’ve seen leaders fall into when trying to be more coach-like? Please share in the comments section below!

About the Author

Joanne Maynard headshot.jpegJoanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

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