Are you coaching too much?

Can we coach too much? Technically, yes. In the coaching workshops that I run, we talk about this question a lot. But you need to understand a little bit about what we define as coaching.


The objective of Coaching

The objective of coaching is pretty simple. It’s to make ourselves un-needed as a coach. If I truly coach a skill or a behaviour, my objective is to one day have that person be able to execute that skill or behaviour - consistently - without me there.


Coaching should be a step in the process that leads to true delegation: Where you can simply hand over control of a task and you know that person will deliver it on time, at the quality that you need. We should always try to move through this process:


Coach - Support - Delegate

In contrast to this, sometimes we coach (and coach) to the point where people rely on us to be there to give them feedback, positive reinforcement, or just to make them feel comfortable. Or maybe it’s so we feel needed as leaders.

Either way - we often forget that coaching is a step, and when we spend too much time on this ‘step’, we never quite get to the delegating ‘step.’


The Sweet Spot for Development: Challenge and Support

While we can coach too much, we can never develop our staff too much.


Here’s where the nuances of coaching become really important, because the sweet spot for development comes directly at the perfect balance of Challenge and Support.

It’s a pretty simple equation:

  1. When we provide too much Challenge and not enough Support, people flounder and don’t develop. They get overwhelmed.
  2. When we provide too much Support and not enough Challenge (ie when we coach too much and don’t move people to the next stage), people aren’t stretched enough and they stagnate.


Here are three things you need to know to manage this balance effectively:

1) Everyone is different

The right levels of support are different for everyone. Some people get less overwhelmed than others, and some people get less overwhelmed for various types of tasks as compared to other types. The bottom line is that everyone is different and we need to know people’s limits and preferences in order to maintain the perfect balance for them.

2) Keep track of where you want people to go

Have a plan. What is it that you want people to be able to do? Once you understand this, you can create some stages or milestones that you need people to move through in order to develop them to the level you want. Keep a regular check on this 'plan' to work out if people have been at one particular stage in the process for too long - and determine if it’s time to move them on to the next stage.


3) Give up control

This is probably the hardest part for any leader. To allow people more control and more challenge, we need to give up control for ourselves. If you don’t feel needed, then you’re probably doing a great job.


Most leaders genuinely want to develop their staff. But sometimes we keep the support there too long for them to truly keep moving forward. Pay attention to how your staff are improving, and if you need to up the Challenge or decrease the Support, then do it in the most strategic way possible.


** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.




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