Box of Crayons Blog


My Three Best Secrets on Effective Coaching

“Coaching” isn’t a new leadership term. Chances are you’ve already come across it in some form or another. In fact, research done in 2006 by leadership development firm BlessingWhite found that 73 percent of managers had some form of coaching training, but only 23 percent of people being coached (fewer than one in four!) thought that the coaching had a positive effect on their job.

It doesn’t always have to be a struggle — there are easy ways for managers to become more coach-like. The essence of coaching lies in helping others, and in unlocking their potential. So if you’re already committed to being helpful and it hasn’t yet led you to coaching more often, read on to learn my best tips for getting there.


Don’t Create a Coaching Culture

Coaching is not a miraculous fix-all that, when implemented into the organizational culture, immediately drives change and improves the workplace in all sorts of ways. It’s a tool that is best put to work to support a specific objective.

If your organizational culture is like every other I’ve ever seen (and it probably is), then it’s one in which people love getting things done. And if you’re like most of the managers I’ve ever worked with, then you genuinely do want to figure things out.

The problem is that when we focus on a coaching culture, we commonly confuse the means for the end. Here is where you need context. Coaching works best when it’s used for a specific purpose within the business — increasing customer retention, for example.

The second context that matters is a personal one. Why should you bother with coaching? Managers need to see why coaching matters, and how it will reduce their workload and prompt more of that Great Work in the office. This context allows managers to see coaching as a support and solution, rather than as another thing being added to their plate.


Keep It Short and Sweet

Coaching doesn’t need to (and, in fact, shouldn’t be) a big formal event. Managers are overwhelmed and overcommitted, and they feel like they don’t have time to take on the task of coaching.

For coaching to stick, it needs to fit into a manager’s daily life — and it can’t take up too much time.

Be brief. Unless you can coach in 10 minutes or less, you can’t coach. You don’t need to sit down and have a head-nodding conversation with someone; you do need to have everyday coaching conversations that get to the heart of the matter quickly.


Be Adequate, Not Excellent

Truth is, being an adequate coach is more than enough in most cases. Over-coaching wastes time and money, and it also sets an unnecessarily high standard when it comes to coaching in general. Adequate coaching both works in the moment and is efficient.

Setting the bar at adequacy helps normalize coaching and encourages managers to try it, since they don’t feel like they need to strive for excellency — just adequacy! Managers just need to up their conversation game a little bit to make a big difference.

We’re hardwired to give advice, but promoting a little more curiosity rather than expertise creates perfectly adequate coaches.

Challenging the broad ideas of what coaching means by following these counterintuitive truths can help a company invest in practical, adaptable coaching skills that will change the way managers lead for the better.

3 Responses to My Three Best Secrets on Effective Coaching

  • Jane Cooke-Lauder

    Hi Michael
    As always, insightful, practical and on the mark!
    Hope summer is treating you well.

  • Nancy

    Looks like a simple blog post, but is a fantastically written article, insanely concise, valuable several times over.

    Applies to more than just coaching, applies to *any kind of change* that is supposed to improve results. This is loaded!

    Worth printing and pinning up, and I only pick a couple of these per year. This is the one so far in 2017!

  • Philippa Coultlish

    I like this. It is quality not quantity that matters. People do groan sometimes when they hear the term ‘coaching’ and think it is ‘fluffy’ stuff they don’t need. My most effective coaching has been short term on specific areas to get certain messages across and flexibility is also absolutely key in supporting individuals as they juggle their commitments. I also like the ‘adequate’ not ‘excellent’ – people get so tied up striving for perfection when getting the job done is more important.

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