by Jay Bransford
In the past 15+ years the art of coaching has become immensely popular and successful around the world. I’m not talking about coaching a sports team. I’m talking about the kind of coaching that focuses on asking a person good questions in order to inspire and motivate him to set goals, identify action steps, and ultimately help him to be transformed in ways that maximize his Godly potential.
This kind of coaching can be extremely encouraging, empowering and truly transformational in a person’s life. But is there ever a time when coaching just doesn’t work or isn’t the right approach?
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17
While in general, I highly encourage all leaders to develop and practice basic coaching skills, it’s also good to know when coaching someone may not be the best use of your time. Although there are some extremely talented coaches out there that can help people work through almost any type of issue, I recommend that before you start coaching someone (either formally or informally), check to make sure that none of the four following conditions already exist:
Lack Motivation to Change
Does the person have interest in their own learning, growth, or personal change? Do they have a learning attitude or are they a know-it-all? On a scale from 1-10, how motivated are they to grow and develop in the area you’re coaching them in? If their motivation level to learn and change isn’t at least a 6 or 7, they likely do not have enough internal motivation to change. Unless and until their motivation to change increases, it’s probably not a good use of your coaching time. If you don’t want to give up on them, focus your energies first on how to increase their internal motivation to change.
Written Off by Leader or Colleagues
If you are the person’s leader, do you personally believe in this person, her potential, and her ability to learn, change and improve? If someone else is this person’s leader, does that leader believe in the person, or has the leader written her off? When a person has been written off by her leader and/or colleagues, it means that she has very little encouragement and support to succeed. And often it means that despite the person’s best intentions and efforts, no one will accept her, or give her opportunities to succeed. When a situation like this exists, it is generally better for the person to find a new leader and/or colleagues to work with – people who believe in her and are willing to give her a chance. So your first coaching assignment for this person might be to ask questions that help the person to consider how healthy her current work situation is and if she needs to make a change. Otherwise, coaching someone who is in a no-win situation like this is simply a painful process for both the coach and coachee.
Not Behavior Focused
It is easy to get sucked into the allure of gaining more and more knowledge. Gaining knowledge, however, is not the goal of the Christian life – but ongoing transformation into the likeness of Jesus is. When coaching people, we need to make sure that people are focused on transformational change, which is evidenced by a change in thinking, feeling and ultimately behaving. If the people you’re working with are only interested in gaining knowledge, but not on the behavioral change that should accompany new knowledge, then the value of that knowledge is close to zero.
Integrity can not be taught. It’s not something that you gain by reading a book or attending a seminar. We can, however, point people to God and let Him change their heart, mind, and character. This doesn’t mean that you should give up on people with serious character issues, but it does mean that you should be careful to NOT waste your time on someone’s skill development when their core issue is a heart/character issue. Make sure you know the difference.
So what is your next step in developing your staff? Make a list of your staff and write down next to each person’s name what their biggest developmental need is and how you can help them with it.
- Are there any difficult conversations you need to have about a person’s performance, motivation, attitude, or character?
- Who seems like a good candidate for some coaching?
- Who needs some mentoring?
* For more information on coaching for behavioral change, see: http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/docs/articles/Coaching-for-Behavioral-Change.doc