Box of Crayons Blog


The Art of Being a Lazy Coach: Don’t Rush to Help

lazy cat

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight

If you’re coaching – and as a manager and a leader, I hope you are – then I’m willing to bet that you’re working too hard.

Here’s why: You leap to action too fast.

You know the situation. Someone comes into your office and makes a request or asks a question … and the Helping Hounds are loose.

“I know what they want! I know what to do! I know what advice to give!” flashes through your brain.

Here’s the price you pay for this generosity of spirit: you’re spending time you might otherwise be working on Great Work providing solutions and fixing things for others.

Here’s the price they’re paying: not having the opportunity to figure things out themselves, and in doing so to literally and metaphorically increase their own capacity.

And here’s the price the system is paying: you’re most likely not even solving the real challenge that they need help with. (Not always, but more times than you might care to admit.)

Here are two powerful coaching questions you can ask someone at the start of any conversation .

How can I help?

What do you want from me?

Asking these questions does two things. First, it’s a self-management tool to stop you rushing in to save the day

And second, the questions encourage the person you are working with to make a clear request of what they want from you. Which then allows you to help them in the way that serves them best.

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3 Responses to The Art of Being a Lazy Coach: Don’t Rush to Help

  • fjr

    The same holds true in teaching. When a teacher or coach rushes in, it often serves the coach’s ego more than it does the student/client, whose practice in exercising executive function is truncated. The coach who does this promotes continuing dependence on him by not nudging the client toward practice and comfidence in his independent judgment.

  • TJ

    Nice insights. I think the key unspoken insight is that stepping in prematurely can undermine confidence and even prompt a threat response in the other person.

  • Ed Nottingham

    I deliver leader coach training for a large transportation company and have been including references and information on Michael’s “lazy coaching” concept. I also include content on using “powerful coaching questions” and “listening to learn.” These programs have been delivered in the US, India, and Asia, and probably the biggest “take away” for participants is “lazy coaching.” Ask, don’t tell; listen 80% of the time, talk 20%. I wish I had known about “lazy coaching” 20 years ago!

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