Everyone can be a Coach

Everyone can be a coach. It’s easy, it just takes some effort and requires setting apart your own opinions and agenda. But it all starts with a shift in mindset. Instead of trying to make people do what you want, try understanding what they want and who they are. The important thing here is not to be judgmental. Understanding is all about asking the right questions and listening to the answers. Listening is the art of trying to understand. Listening is NOT thinking of what to say next to achieve your goals while someone is answering your question. Coaching through understanding is a lot more powerful than giving your opinion and expect people to understand and act accordingly. You can only be a coach through really understanding using questions and carfully listening to the answers. If you really want to change someone: first imagine yourself walking in the same direction at the same pace. Only then, when your almost walking hand in hand you can change that direction and maybe even pick up the pace. So if you think coaching is just telling people what to and how do it….. well, then I hope you don’t have a lot of people you intend to coach.

So if asking questions, really understanding people is what good coaches do, you can image why managers are probably not the best coaches. Let me explain why. In most organizations decision making is organized in a hierarchical  way. Managers have their own manager, I call them middle managers. And there are lots of them, almost every manager is a middle manager. And what is expected of middle management? Well, they have to translate upper management goals to their team. As a natural response middle management thinks of a strategy on how to achieve those goals and projects that strategy on their team. After that part is done, they fill their days repeating what is expected and doing lots of police work to keep everybody in line. Now is this what a coach does? Is this asking question, listening and understanding?

While thinking of a way to achieve the goals set by upper management without bringing in the team may seem like the natural thing a manager should do. For me it’s really not. It’s true that it’s easy and comfortable to think of a strategy when you don’t have to take into account everyone’s opinion and reach some sort of concensus. Achieving this is really hard work, even for an experienced coach. But in the long run it really pays out when a manager is able to share the responsibility for the goals set by upper management with his team. When you share the same goals, management becomes a lot more fun and effective. You don’t need to spend most of your day being the guy that keeps repeating what you expect them to do. And as a bonus you can stop policing them around when they don’t act accordingly. Unless you like doing that, but then I’d advice a career switch and maybe be a referee or a judge.

So if  you want to make a change, I encourage you to stop telling and start understanding using powerful questions. Start being a coach! As an experiment, if a colleague needs help, don’t tell him what to do. Just use questions to point him in the right direction. Only if you are able set your personal goals aside and invest in people so together you can achieve a common goal you will be a great coach.