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The Hardest Part of Coaching

Coaching employees, in my opinion, is not only incredibly effective, but it is fun. The ability to share my knowledge with them and help them grow is a pleasure. 

The hardest part, though, is in holding back information to help them discover things on their own. Adults learn best by doing - and that usually means doing some things wrong. In many ways, mistakes is the best way to learn. We do something, we see how it worked, we adjust, we do it again, and repeat the whole process. Eventually, we become pretty good at the task.

As a coach, you can’t simply give the person the answer. They won’t learn as well. You have to ask questions and then avoid telling them if it is right or wrong. You have to let them discover things. Ask “what will you do next”, when they answer, ask “why”, and keep asking “why” until they either confirm their thought or see an issue with it and start again.

I remember one time I was going to present to a group of managers. My boss at the time was coaching me on getting my message across quickly and effectively. I gave them presentation that we agreed on and it bombed (not horribly, but no one would call it a success). He didn’t tell me why, but he kept asking me questions - why did you say that, what reaction were you hoping to get, why didn’t you get it, etc.

As we talked, I realized he knew what the right way to present the topic was, but wasn’t telling me. I was frustrated and eventually told him to just tell me. He laughed and said “no”. Then kept asking me. Eventually, I understood my mistake. I had been thinking about my presentation, not the things that mattered to the audience. He could have just told me and I may have learned. Because I had to discover it on my own with his questioning, I never made the same mistake again.

He wanted to give me the answer. I want to give people I am coaching the answer. He taught me that he was the best coach when he helped me discover the answer on my own.

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