Calling time on coaching

As long as that willingness is there, you have someone whom you want to support

While every manager should have the capability to coach, you also need to have the ability to discern when coaching isn’t working

While every manager should have the capability to coach, you also need to have the ability to discern when coaching isn’t working

 
coaching

But while every manager should have the capability to coach, you also need to have the ability to discern when coaching isn’t working.

When your direct report isn’t improving despite your best efforts, you need to consider whether that person is coachable. “Coachability” requires two things of your direct report:

– they need to demonstrate a commitment to development. That means they will be more willing to accept feedback, more willing to try something new and more willing to confess if they didn’t do something right – because they see that moment as a learning opportunity.

– they need to have the capacity to get to the skill level you want them to reach. For example, you could want to be a professional basketball player, but no matter how hard you practice, you may not get into the NBA.

If your direct report doesn’t seem to be improving, don’t assume the worst. Skills don’t often improve right away, so first check for No 1: the willingness factor. Are they showing up for meetings? Coming prepared? Are they taking the lead and following up with you? Are they addressing action items you have defined together? Are they owning the feedback you are giving? If they are, as the coaching process progresses, you can start to watch for improvement in capabilities and outcomes. If they’re not, they may not be in a place where coaching can help. Discuss this with them to let them know what you’ve observed, and to explore how committed they are to their development along this particular path.

If you’ve tried every way you can think of to move your direct report in a particular direction, and it’s just not working, consider alternatives such as a third-party training, or having someone else on your team provide the coaching (if you’ve had a tumultuous history, for example, the lack of trust can make it hard to get into a coaching relationship).

Sometimes the issue that your employee is grappling with may even take psychological therapy or counselling, especially if it is a general behaviour rather than a specific skill. It can often be difficult to even begin to assess whether this kind of intervention is needed because you don’t want to place judgment on the person.

If you feel comfortable you can ask, “Have you thought about getting assistance in other ways?” But how you talk with them about this depends on the person and your relationship. In any case, you should confer with your human resources department before bringing up any more sensitive forms of treatment.

If they still don’t make progress, you will need to make a decision about whether they are the right person for this particular task or responsibility.

If the issue you are trying to coach toward is a specific capability rather than a behaviour, but your direct report is just not picking up the skills fast enough despite having the willingness, consider redirecting their energies to skills that they do have. Shift their role if you need to. As long as that willingness is there, you have someone whom you want to support.

Muriel Maignan Wilkins is a co-founder and managing partner of Isis Associates, a boutique executive coaching and leadership development firm.

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