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When employees ask for a coach, this is what they really want.

Must managers learn to coach? As part of my role as a leadership coach and a manager, I read a lot of studies. Every time I read a phrase about how managers should learn how to coach, I shake my head. The reason I disagree is not that I don’t find coaching helpful, I wouldn’t be a leadership coach if I didn’t think it can be a life-changing experience, it’s because when employees are asking for a coach, they are actually asking for something more.

Employees are asking us to help them learn, grow and make an impact

As managers and employees, we don’t always know exactly what we need ourselves to make progress and impact in our career. Sometimes we just feel that we are stuck. So we go to our manager and ask for help. Do we know exactly which tool can help us the most? Coaching? Mentoring? Consulting? What is the difference between them?

Consulting

Is “If this is your problem, this is the solution”. For example – If your code fails to run, here is a way to debug it and solve this.

Mentoring

Is about guidance on a journey. The mentor has taken the path or a part of a path that you are currently on. A mentor can look back and guide you on how to avoid roadblocks he already encountered and what are the best practices to move forward. Mentoring is about insights. For example – “If you want to become principal, this what I recommend from my experience…”

You can also mentor technically. Sometimes in mentoring, we can also teach or consult on specific areas.

Coaching

Is the skill of creating new options for behaviors and actions by broadening the coachee’s perspective of a current situation. When you see things differently, you can take different actions. The tools of coaching are listening and asking open-ended questions. There are many approaches to coaching, some are more active, some are more passive. There is a reason why it takes at least 2 years to learn and practice coaching. It’s a tough skill to acquire.

When I graduated from coaching school, I attended a training session with one of the school’s top teacher. She made coaching seem so easy and obvious. I left that training feeling that I should probably drop coaching as it was so hard for me at that time and that I would never reach her level of coaching. I’ve gotten better, and there is still a long journey for me. It’s a never-ending journey.

Managers can learn how to coach! But they need to be trained, they need to constantly practice and the most important thing is that they need to understand when they should coach.

What do they need right now?

The question a manager should ask himself when an employee comes with a challenge or a problem is “What does she/he need right now?” Usually when they have a technical challenge, consulting and mentoring fit best. When relationships are involved, there is a huge benefit for coaching.

In a development or problem-solving conversation, you can change the tool as needed.

The key is to listen carefully and focus on the employee. Not on solving the problem.

Bottom Line

Coaching is a powerful skill that needs to be learned and constantly practiced. Your employees want to learn and grow. Choose the best tool to help them learn and develop.

Share your experience

Was the article helpful? Do you think others can benefit from it? Please take a moment and share it along with a comment that describes your takeaway. Feel free to mention me, so I get notified. That would be very helpful.

Thank you for reading this.

Nir Megnazi – Leadership Coach

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