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Five Steps to Coaching Failure

Green Field With Tracks

Helping individuals or groups to change their outlook or behaviour which leads to demonstrable differences in their performance both at work and at home is what coaching is all about. Whether it’s Executive or Life coaching the end product usually covers more aspects of an individual’s existence than was originally anticipated. Having said this it’s all too easy to lose track of what that original purpose was whether working with an individual or a group.

The following Five Steps to Coaching Failure will serve as useful reminders of what not to do when working with coaching clients, any one of which can lead to an unsuccessful outcome.

1 Ignore the Obvious Signals

Whether you are coaching an individual or a group there are always those tell tale signs that something is not quite right. An over-long silence on a phone call or nervous shuffling in the seat when dealing face-to-face usually mean there is something in what has just passed that is worth remembering for later or delving deeper. When working with groups the dynamics that an experienced facilitator is used to picking up on – posture, open and closed body styles and rolling of eyes when particular individuals speak are far more expressive of what might be going on than the words being used. Many leaders and senior managers are used to talking at length and expect others to listen. They may or may not be articulate but they will need challenging otherwise they’ll keep on hogging the airtime to avoid dealing with the issues at hand.

2 Stick to Your Tried and Trusted Agenda

Any coaching engagement is likely to move into areas that can’t really be predicted so it’s not unreasonable to assume that a rigid agenda or programme followed by a coach is not going to succeed. Planning out a route map after initial meetings with clients makes absolute sense, especially so if this is developed with the client. Even if it just for the coach to start thinking ahead it can only help. Where this approach goes wrong though is when the ‘Coaching Programme’ is followed to the letter regardless of what is covered during the coaching sessions. Some people like the idea of following a pre-arranged course of specific sessions aimed at delivering them particular outcomes but this is not really coaching.

3 Don’t Worry About Failure

Coaches like other independents working ‘from the outside looking in’ have a great opportunity to see what co-workers or family members do not. With that comes responsibility to provide objective feedback and appropriate challenge. The idea that a coaching engagement will be a success regardless of whether it meet its initial aims or not because the coachee will always get something out of it is a dangerous one. Always remember who your client is. Is it the individual you are working with or is it the organization that brought you in to coach its people? Confidentiality is paramount of course but you should never lose sight of the original set of requirements for the coaching engagement. Easy to renegotiate with an individual if you are working one-to-one but more complex if that person is receiving the benefit of a coaching programme funded by their employer.

4 Trust in Your Own Ability

No-one is incapable of improving their own performance. That after all is why many people enter into coaching relationships so it shouldn’t be any different for coaches themselves. Continuing Professional Development is talked about for many professions, indeed it’s mandated in some. Learning new techniques, employing a coach yourself or researching related fields all will benefit the long-term performance of a coach. Simply reflect on each coaching session using the following three questions.

  1. What worked,
  2. What didn’t go as well as planned,
  3. What wouldn’t you do again (and why)

From a coaches perspective this is an extremely effective way of taking stock of what’s just happened. Even if you are coaching a number of individuals over the course of a day it’s definitely worth spending five minutes after each session and then again later on to review the whole day.

5 Stay With the Here and Now

When working closely with individuals, especially over a period of time, it is all too easy to get caught up in the here and now of that person’s work and/or life. Even experienced coaches can at times be drawn in, which if not checked can render a session as no more useful than an idle chat. Remembering what the initial objective was and considering how you might bring in something you have heard from a previous session or what new ‘challenges’ you can introduce will all help in this. In many ways this is where telephone coaching can help as it’s far easier to refer to notes than when dealing with someone face to face. The rough route map you put together to start with and perhaps added to over subsequent sessions will be a real benefit here.

These Five Steps to Coaching Failure will be familiar to most coaches. They sound simple and obvious but they are all too easy to ‘achieve’ if you are not careful. A quick check every now and again on how you have performed against these five might be useful. If you work with a coach then think back to see if any of these situations have occurred during your sessions. If they have then providing some appropriate feedback to your coach would seem to make sense.

Copyright © 2012 Paul Slater