Is coaching for everyone?

In a post “Coaching approach to leading people” I talked about how to manage people using coaching approach. One question that I sometimes get is whether that approach works for everyone. The simple answer is “yes.” Coaching approach is something that works across different personality types, organizations and cultures. However, one needs to understand that it is not suitable for every situation and also the extent of success will vary from person to person.

What are the prerequisites?

There is single most important prerequisite: willingness of the person to get coached and desire to improve. If you try to coach someone who is not willing to change then no amount of coaching will work. In fact if someone doesn’t want to change then there is no approach that will work as you cannot change someone’s behavior against his will. And it doesn’t need to be just about change. For such a person you need a different management style in every interaction.

Who else? For more junior members of your team coaching will still work but may not be enough. You will need to combine it with some training, mentoring and other tools for developing people.

Is it appropriate for this situation?

The only question you should ask is whether the situation or the topic is appropriate for a coaching approach. Where coaching won’t work well is when you need to develop technical or functional skills of your employee. For this particular need some training and mentoring are generally better approaches. At the other hand where coaching really works are behavioral issues. If you need to change attitude of someone on your team (for example to be better team player, to be better listener, to be more assertive) coaching is a nice way how to achieve the goal. Though still, the person must understand the need and be willing to improve.

Is it the right management style?

It depends. As a general rule in knowledge based workplace it will do miracles that would be difficult to achieve by other means or management styles. However, there are situations when you need to adjust your management style to get things done. A typical situation would be an emergency. The same way as consensus is not the best way how to make fast decisions it is not appropriate to use coaching management style when you need your team to act fast and “without thinking”. If you are in a damage control mode you need your team to follow orders and you can leave the coaching for another time.

Will it work in my culture?

When it comes to different cultures then similarly to different people not everyone will react the same way to this approach. You may consider explaining a bit more what you are doing, what is your expectation and what are the boundaries and guidelines for you and your employee will work together. When you look at the research done by International Coach Federation (2012 ICF Global Coaching Study) coaching is a really worldwide movement and you can find presence of this profession in countries around the world. It is estimated that there are 47.500 professional coaches (18.400 in Americas; 21.300 in Europe; 2.100 in Middle East and Africa; and 5.700 in Asia and Oceania). Coaching works everywhere and you just need to be sensitive to the needs of your employee.

Twitter type summary: “Coaching works for anyone who is willing to get coached, has an open mind and a strong desire to improve.”

What are the situations when coaching didn’t work for you? What approaches did work?

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