Coaching – Where managers fear to tread (Part 1)


Coaching improves bottom line performance between 8-24%* and yet it’s startling how many organisations are either not coaching or coaching ineffectively.

25 years ago I started using feedback and coaching (back then for my sales team) so I became used to seeing

Behaviour change

Performance improve

Highly engaged staff

Later as I began my career as a learning consultant I was surprised to find coaching wasn’t the norm. Instead many organisations had teams that were left unsupported, underdeveloped and disengaged. Sadly 23 years later little has changed in the corporate world.

Why do managers fear coaching?

There are different reasons, some of which depend on the manager’s psychological patterns and therefore their mind-set such as

  • “Its plain and simple I tell them to change and they should do it”
  • “There’s no time to coach”
  • “I haven’t the patience”
  • “They can be difficult discussions to have – I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings”
  • “Its pointless trying to change the mind of some of the people we have to work with”
  • “I’m the manager but no one has ever properly showed me how to do it or the structure to follow”
  • “My team are good anyway, I don’t need to coach them”
  • “It might uncover some stuff I won’t feel comfortable with and tears” etc.,

And then there’s culture

Working in a culture that doesn’t value coaching makes the manager’s job double difficult. It means it won’t be given a priority, and the skills aren’t being role-modelled by their leaders. The leaders say they want the best results but won’t back this up in their behaviour. Coaching is the best management tool to leverage change and improvement.

In cultures that undervalue coaching there can also be an absence of quality frameworks by which performance is objectively supported. Yes there may be targets and KPI’s but these are not the same. The difference being without quality frameworks and coaching, measurement tends to focus on the WHAT but not the HOW.

There are plenty of managers and leaders that know if their teams are hitting their targets but have little idea as to HOW they are achieving them.

These barriers don’t prevent managers completely because coaching discussions (based on quality) don’t have to be time-consuming affairs. We can learn the art of what I call instant-performance-coaching. A discussion that can last a handful of minutes upwards that can help to adjust behaviour, mind-set and performance.

What do we need to do to improve performance through coaching?

  1. Get past our own reluctances that stops us learning to coach effectively
  2. Draw-up a quality framework or matrix that highlights our teams strengths and development areas and focus on the gaps
  3. Research the coaching models out there that suit us best. There’s lots of free stuff available too.
  4. Look for a coaching structure that works well in supporting performance. One that blends open questions and gaining committed action by the end of the discussion.
  5. Realise that many everyday (home and work) discussions can be coaching discussions but to make them so we must become conscious of the quality of the questions we are asking.

    I meet many managers that tell me they automatically have coaching discussions throughout the day but when I ask them for examples of the quality questions and framework they use, they have nothing to back it up. Meaning they aren’t being as effective as they think!

The bunkers of coaching

Caching isn’t a skill that we can fully grasp over night but it’s well worth the effort in learning. Once we step past the self-imposed and cultural barriers there are always little bunkers to fall into. Such as

  • Dealing with an objection we haven’t heard before
  • Tears, emotions and other tricky behaviours (Attack, defend, isolation (leave me alone behaviours), blame etc.,)
  • Coachee’s that have a formidable plan and justification as to why they can’t change
  • Our own feelings of vulnerability

The benefits of finding our self in one of these bunkers far outweigh the initial anxiety. Every time we do it’s offering the greatest opportunity to learn. It happens once, we learn a lot by being there and we are far better equipped for next time. Everyone improves with quality coaching.

Without a philosophy like this we will find our self unconsciously avoiding feedback and coaching and things won’t improve. Not by our doing, skill or wisdom.

In part two we’ll discuss what happens when tears and emotions come along in a coaching session but until then if you would like more information on the power of coaching and improving the quality of performance contact me at

*Data based on a variety of projects in the last 23 years

  • Quote-background

    "I meet many managers that tell me they automatically have coaching discussions throughout the day but when I ask them for examples of the quality questions and framework they use, they have nothing to back it up. Meaning they aren’t being as effective as they think"!

    Glenn Bracey,
    Future Vision Training Ltd,
    13th March 2017


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