Coaching Is About Picking Your Fight

Coaching is so much more about the situation and task, yet instead we mistakenly make it about the person. Coaching for a task is a dialogue to resolve a possible problem. Coaching for a person is much more messy. One thing they both have in common is that all coaching is about people development, and how we get there is through behaviors. If we think it’s about coaching the person, it’s like trying to jump a mountain. A person’s mountain of feelings and fears need to be carefully walked through one behavior at a time. We climb a mountain, but we don’t jump it.

I’ve watched experienced coaches try to tackle an engineer’s poor behavior in a meeting, encompassing both their decision-making skills and interpersonal team relationships, all in one coaching session. Talk about poking a bear. Each situation is packed with bias and emotion related to why any of us act a certain way, and to unpack, dissect, and lay out these issues all at once can be very off-putting.

“When we set out to change another – the biggest change is in ourselves.”

People development is our coaching goal and happens mostly from our collective willingness and interest to try new behaviors. And those new behaviors are toward influencing someone else to see and think differently – either about themselves or a certain perspective on a situation. More powerful than “We are what we eat, say, or do.” is “We are what we think.” Influencing someone’s thinking doesn’t happen in 5 minutes.

We try to “fix” the person but instead we get tangled up in too many biases, issues, egos, and fears, all bundled up as “that’s just me.” If we can separate feelings from behaviors, we are making progress.  

The acronym OFUR, which stands for Objectivity, Fairness, Understanding, and Respect, defines the hallmarks to great coaching. This is why executive coaching is gaining so much traction in today’s businesses, as these hallmarks are very hard to employ if the boss, as coach, has their compensation directly tied to the coachee’s behaviors changing. The urgency, immediacy, strict deadlines, and pushiness of bosses doesn’t work, whereas executive coaches can be distanced from these predictable pain points of boss-employee relationships.

Improve a person’s goal attainment by focusing on a series of specific small adjustable steps, instead of the whole mountain! If the desired end result is people development, don’t try to develop the whole person at once, instead develop those small individual behaviors, through their re-newed thinking.  I have worked with many executive sales leaders who try to develop salespeople by repeating expectations and bashing the expected results over the salesperson’s head. (Glengarry Glen Ross style – Always Be Closing!)

“The worst way to get results is to focus on results.”  ~ Susan Fowler

If behaviors are leaves on the tree (what we see), and the attitudes are the roots, (what is hidden), the best coaches focus on the leaves with sensitivity to the impact on the roots.

Staying focused in coaching is like trimming the tree, with sensitivity that what we are trimming on top (skills – behaviors) has impact on the roots (values – attitudes). If we try to coach to their attitude – watch out – there may be a hornets nest in those roots.

If we want the change more than they do, they will make changes only when we are around.

“We don’t mind change, what we mind is being changed.” ~ Jamie Ramsden

Coaching goals are for others to use the behaviors that get them to achieve their goals and the organization’s goals, when the coach is not there.

Jim

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