Burned By Bad Coaching?

Personal Example

fire-extinguisherIn a previous organization, I worked for a manager who embraced new styles of leadership. Each time he attended a training workshop, he arrived at work the next day claiming it was a life changing event.

Each time he would instruct his management team to immediately change their leadership style to incorporate his new learnings. While most of his initiatives were good and became part of our culture, unconsciously he created confusion, frustration, and finally he destroyed any trust his employees had in him as a leader.

This man’s intentions were true and good natured. He really wanted to be a great coach and for each member of his management team to be good coaches as well. So why did a man so intent to make the business better for all employees, through coaching, fail?

Ultimately, he thought he had proved himself through physical and structural changes. However, it takes much more than just surface changes and training classes to make a good coach; it requires changes to the internal management style. Because he thought himself an expert and his role complete, he had become un-coachable.

A Look At Effective Coaching Behaviors

Dr. Steven J. Stowell and CMOE (Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness) through extensive research have identified 47 “Differentiating Behaviors that Distinguish Successful from Unsuccessful Performance Leaders.” Dr. Stowell then condensed these behaviors into eight categories that are taught in CMOE’s Coaching Skills Program.

Some of these significant behaviors that world-class coaches exhibit include:

  • Gives recognition of employees worth
  • Listens carefully, using reflective listening
  • Provides positive feedback – gives credit
  • Respects confidentiality
  • Owns some responsibility
  • Doesn’t point blame
  • Asks questions to gather information, asks others to share their views
  • Is collaborative and open to other methods to completion of tasks

As I reflect on these differentiating behaviors, I can identify that while my previous supervisor claimed to understand the importance of trust in a coaching relationship, his undermining behaviors with the other managers indicated it was not so. The following examples show his lack of trust.

The Wrong Methods

My supervisor had been told that employees need to take responsibility to grow both professionally and personally. His role was simply to “empower” his team and let them “figure out the rest.” Unfortunately when an employee failed in some capacity, the employee would be reprimanded by this supervisor. In some cases, the person would be ridiculed (he called it joking around) in front of the other team members, simply because he was left to guess his way to success, with no “true” coach helping him find the way.

Additionally, this manager seldom listened to his team. He made “snap” judgments without getting all of the facts or perceptions of anyone or everyone involved. He often cut into the explanations because he felt he had the answer even though he had heard only half the issue.

Finally, the most damaging trait was his inability to keep confidential remarks confidential. He often discussed his meetings with individual team members with other members, especially if some disagreement of thought was explored. With this type of feedback, it didn’t take long for communication from and within his team to cease.

The Making of a Disgruntled Team Member

If people within an organization are reprimanded, ridiculed, and have their confidentiality breached, it makes for a destructive environment. When managers “empower” others, it is critical to allot enough authority, support, and resources so that the employee can complete the task successfully. When a subordinate is asked to be a leader and then fails because they were not setup for success, that person begins to question his/her own judgment. That self-doubt can seriously inhibit their effectiveness to be resourceful or creative for the business.

Build a Positive Culture

To build and maintain a culture of trust, an effective coach must listen. A coach must hear out their employees so that conflicts, problems, and misunderstandings can be rectified. Further, a good listener must be calm and confidential. When there is a disagreement, personal beliefs need to be put aside so the beliefs of each party can be understood. A coach who doesn’t listen, doesn’t know what the real issues are and employees will not only distrust the supervisor, but each other.

In the case of my supervisor, his management team tried talking with him about his coaching and leadership style. Each time he explained that since he had the training, he understood the situation better than they did. Finally a Vice President called for a 360° survey assessment, and as a result, he left the company.

Does this mean all coaching training workshops will have the same results? No, not at all. What it does mean is that coaches need proven methods and processes in their training and education to become effective leaders. This man had many good traits; nevertheless they were overlooked because of his few bad ones.

Had this man been given the right training he might have been able to develop his leadership approach that would create a strong personal leadership approach and team that would have taken the business to higher levels. Instead, the business faltered for two years before the team was able to rebuild itself.

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About the Author

Martha Rice