Tackling Myths About Workplace Coaching

Let’s talk about 7 common myths about workplace coaching that are worth debunking.

Myth #1: you can teach people how to coach in half a day

Some people claim that you can teach people how to coach in half a day. However, it depends what you want to be able to do. If you want to be able to help people in a way that’s elegant, subtle and be confident that you can handle challenges that may emerge in a coaching conversation, you’ll need more than half a day in order to be truly excellent.

The truth is that people need a whole set of skills in order to coach well. For example, you need to know different ways to build rapport, which is an essential building block in a great conversation. You need to know how to ask questions which get to the heart of an issue so that, if you are leading a conversation and the issue being raised isn’t the real issue that needs to be resolved, then you have the questioning skills to dive deeper.

You need to know how to adapt your approach to people whose pattern of interacting with the world might be quite different from your own, so that you can coach in the workplace both highly confidently and highly competently.

Myth #2: you don’t need to know about workplace issues to coach

Most coaching programs just deal with conversations, without giving participants specific help on how to deal with workplace challenges and issues. What do I mean?

I mean how to help someone who is overwhelmed and feels as though they can’t cope with their current workload.

I mean how to deal with under-performance in a way that is both supportive and fully effective.

I mean how to deal with bullying behaviour and harassment in the workplace, so that people who are targeted feel believed and supported, and people engaging in inappropriate behaviour stop immediately.

All of these areas are potential mine fields for workplace leaders and managers. If the conversations are not conducted well there is a great risk of break down in relationships and a collapse into conflict.

Our view is that leaving leaders floundering in relation to workplace issues is an unacceptable risk. Leaders need to know exactly what to do in those tricky situations and exactly what to avoid.

Myth #3: leaders already coach

Some leaders say: “I already know how to coach”.

Many leaders claim they know how to coach, but as they’ve experienced coach training they’ve come to realise that what they’ve been doing in the past is giving advice. That’s quite different from coaching, which is using a rapport and questioning model to focus on the person with the issue. There’s quite a difference in the way time is shared between a coach and the person receiving support, than the normal sort of conversations that people experience in the workplace. It’s quite a shift from what people are doing now.

There are particular rhythms in coaching conversations, and ways of taking a conversation forward, where in an empowering way you help the person take full responsibility for what’s happening, and build their confidence and capacity. But honestly, you don’t want this taking over your world either.

So, there’s a real art form in how to conduct a great coaching conversation in a short period of time, without metaphorically looking at your watch. And leaders need to know how to do that.

Myth #4: we can’t afford two days away from work for comprehensive coach training

Some of you very busy, productive people might be thinking that you don’t have the time to attend comprehensive coach training. I hope this is alright to say. If you don’t have time to attend a coaching workshop then, honestly, you particularly need to be at that workshop.

Because great coach training, such as our program, teaches you about delegating and working with others to give you more time, build the capacity of those around you, and reduce the acute sense of pressure that’s a barrier to you being a great leader.

Think about this. During the global financial crisis which was a great issue for Australia, Ken Henry who was then the head of Commonwealth treasury, took off a month to look after wombats that needed rescuing.
There was open criticism of his decision to take time off for a month. His response was, “If I can’t take off four weeks and rely on the people around me, and those that they work with, to step forward and do what’s needed, then I have failed as a leader.”

What I’d say to anyone is, if Ken Henry can take off four weeks during a global financial crisis and have Australia come out terrifically compared with the rest of the world, then it’s worth taking time out to go to an intensive coaching workshop, that’s going to transform how you interact with others. It’s well worth the investment of time.

Myth #5: this talk about coaching is rubbish, I just need to tell people what to do

I have an important question: how we can bring about change with a lighter touch? Because when we tell people what to do, we can unintentionally get their backs up, seem heavy handed and create resistance to change.

Now, on occasion, the person you’re coaching really needs to change. But when you coach with empathy and insight, and focus on the other person, it’s much harder for them to resist, because there’s simply less for them to resist. When you make it harder for people to resist through your warmth and your adept coaching style, you’re removing barriers to change.

You want to lead in a way where you’re dealing with the issues, yet not being coercive. I promise you, if you adopt coaching approaches, such as those we advocate, in workplace conversations, people will either change or move on. But you will have been true to your values, you will have been true to your organization’s values, you’ll be a really strong leader, and also a humane person.

You won’t have done anything that causes you to wake up in the middle of the night and say, “Oh, I feel bad about that.” You’ll be leading with heart, leading well, and making a difference. You will be helping other people deal with issues they need to deal with, and feel better about themselves.

Myth #6: senior executives don’t need coach training

If you want an executive team that leads in ways that are positive, constructive, unified, working seamlessly across the organisation, and able to resolve problems with stakeholders very elegantly and quickly, then they should undertake coach training as a group.

People who undertake coach training together, change in the way that they operate together. And they change in the way that they operate with others. It’s very noticeable in an executive group or team who has experienced coach training, and who hasn’t, because it stays with people over time.

Undertaking coach training together is well worth the investment, and the time. When you change the skill set of those at the top of an organisation, a lot of other cultural shifts become much easier.

Myth #7: I don’t need this broader cultural stuff, I just want to deal with my nightmare person at work

Great coach training such as ours will send you out the door able to deal with your nightmare person.
Our programs give you step-by-step guidance about how to address any disquiet you have about performance issues in a way where the person feels supported, you’re being personally warm and tough on the issues, where it’s clear the performance that is needed, and you’re coaching the person step-by-step through the changes they need to go through.

You’ll also find sometimes in the workplace that there can be a misalignment between values, which can be very demotivating for people. So you’ll learn how to resolve values clashes and how to work with people individually in a way that’s true for you and true for them.

The take away

When you know that you can have a supportive and tough conversation easily, it’s a liberating experience that transforms how you experience any situation. You can use these skills with stakeholders, managing up, across, or in providing support to those you work with.

When the executive leadership cohort in an organisation have coaching skills, it’s a liberating experience for those who work in the organisation, and for those that interact with the organisation. It brings about positive change that makes a difference. And it takes longer than half a day.

Learn more

To learn more about our coaching programs click here.


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