How to Avoid Seven Common Management Coaching Mistakes

By By Steven J. Stowell, PhD.
Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness.

Management coaching creates a spirit of collaboration, allows for open communication, and builds trust and respect in the relationship. The road to high-performance and win-win partnerships has plenty of falling rocks, potholes, and detours. However, if you are able to read the road signs, you can steer around many of these obstacles.
The secret to successful management coaching lies in avoiding the seven most common coaching mistakes. We can reduce unnecessary conflict, turnover, and frustration during times of change if we are aware of these obstacles and commit to developing our coaching skills accordingly.

Mistake Number One – Don’t Rock the Boat
Too many people assume that the best way to build strong relationships is to keep quiet, keep you head down and eyes closed. The worst thing you can do when you have a concern or even sense a problem is to let it fester.

Recommendation Number One:
Ask, talk, engage people in the spirit of inquiry and understanding. You don’t need to wait until you have an ironclad case.

Mistake Number Two- Delay
Some managers see coaching opportunities but procrastinate. They say to themselves, “I will make a move at the right moment when I am not so busy.” We rationalized that there will be an ideal time to talk. As a result, we do more damage as we wait for this magical moment to appear.

Recommendation Number Two:
Keep people in perspective, and budget time to talk with them. Explore situations and find solutions to common problems.

Mistake Number Three – Dump
Many leaders open up to management coaching only after the list of topics is so long that it would topple a shopping cart. When you dump a list of concerns, people react by defending and covering up.

Recommendation Number Three:
Be selective and focused with conversation topics rather than comprehensive. People appreciate talking about one or two issues at a time. Don’t swamp them with too many suggestions and changes. One quality solution is more important that a lot of weak ones.

Mistake Number Four- Dominate
When some supervisors do open up dialogue, they are unable to control the floodgates. The conversation whips into a firestorm of accusations, venting, and anger, and lecture. The vast majority of managers inadvertently dominate coaching discussions by simply talking 75% of the time or more. We sometimes mistakenly feel that we have more to say, more expertise, and wisdom.

Recommendation Number Four:
Plan ahead. Rehearse your thoughts in your mind. Don’t go on for more than about 30 seconds on any one point. Generally, when you spend more than 55% of the time talking, you are overstepping the boundaries.

Mistake Number Five- Prescribe
Many of us take pride in our expertise. As supervisors, we feel that we have a lot to offer, and that we know what is best. We forget that management coaching is really supposed to help define the situation and facilitate an agreement or solution so that others can feel ownership. Once we begin selling our pre-formed ideas, our ability to brainstorm and participate diminishes.

Recommendation Number Five:
Ask questions. Inquire before you advocate. Try to guide rather than dictate. Find out what the other person knows and what solutions they have in mind.

Mistake Number Six- Attack
It is possible for well-intended discussions to degenerate into aggressive and angry feelings. When an employee feels attacked, he/she will simply cover up, deflect responsibility, and not speak up. People pack around resentment and seek ways to get even. People begin acting like victims rather than creative, empowered contributors. When you attack you make the issue personal rather than objective.

Recommendation Number Six:
Proper management coaching often requires a step back to look at all the factors. Usually serious problems have many roots. Be a little vulnerable by looking for your own contribution to the situation. This will help defuse the fireworks. Put your concerns in writing and see if the tone and spirit is there.

Mistake Number Seven- Denial
Too many leaders do not create two-way relationships. It is easier to see the faults and needs of others than to identify them in ourselves. This phenomena is called a “self-serving bias.” Encourage and seek out feedback from others. If you model a willingness to develop and improve, others around you will also.

Recommendation Number Seven:
Try to identify your contributions to the issues and concerns. Be open, up-front, and candid. Don’t get defensive if others see your own shortcomings. Thank them for their openness and willingness to speak up.

In Summary
Look at relationships as a business asset and competitive advantage. At times, it may seem that fighting, arguing, or screaming is faster and more effective than management coaching. Don’t be fooled. These tactics only lead to stress, fatigue, and diminished motivation for everyone. High performance, win-win partnerships, on the other hand, help the organization flourish and bring you personal satisfaction.

© CMOE Inc. 2005