You Have to Want to Be a Coach to Be a Good One

The manager as a coach is an intoxicating idea – instead of carrying out tasks and managing numbers the manager focuses on developing people and patiently works with them to help them apply new skills and stretch their abilities. Imagine how effective our organizations would be if all managers could do this?

The idea is a good one. In fact, it’s very good. But there is a problem… some people selling training and some promoting coaching within our organizations want to treat it like a universal cure-all, and even the most obviously unlikely candidates for coaching would be expected to adopt the skills and re-orient their management styles.

As all of know, every few years an essentially sound management idea comes along only to get twisted and contorted into something it was never intended to be, and thereafter to be ridiculed as a fad or flavor of the month. Coaching is potentially much too valuable a management tool to suffer this fate.

Certain personalities are naturals for coaching. They have the right attributes and the right motivation (in OMS terms a Higher S and S/A relationship) – in fact, many have already been coaching for years, perhaps without calling it that. They are relationship personalities – tuned in to people, keen to help others develop, and they don’t begrudge the time and effort it takes. They are motivated to help others and derive real satisfaction from moving people to a higher level of performance.

Other personalities will express appreciation for the idea, and will acknowledge the well-understood benefits, but will have little personal interest in participating in a coaching process that requires commitment to a formalized set of procedures. These are personalities who measure themselves in terms of personal and visible accomplishments, and who are most motivated to solve problems and manage tasks (A & D/Lower S). They equate to people on an instructional level and perceive frequent developmental interactions as time-draining distractions.

Teaching the former personality to coach effectively builds upon their talents – it’s what they do best because they are motivated to do it. Teaching the latter to coach would be ignoring their talents and expecting them to commit to an interactive process they would find both frustrating and demotivating.

Before we train we have to take into account the personalities and motivational sets of the training population. On a sustained basis none of us do well what we don’t find satisfaction with, and with training it’s particularly important to approach it with a realistic understanding of what it can and cannot accomplish with different personalities.

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