Managers think they are good at coaching. They’re not.

In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, Julia and Trenton Milner shared some amazing research on how leaders view themselves when it comes to coaching. Below are some themes and applied to our FLIP’D framework.

 One definition of coaching is: “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance”

  • It’s about helping others to LEARN
  • It’s NOT about TEACHING.

 The research included:

  • 98 people in a MBA course of study (with 3.8 years ave. leadership experience)
  • They videotaped over 900 (5 minute) coaching conversations.
  • Video coaching conversations were reviewed by peers and 18 other coaching experts (with 23.2 years work experience + 7.4 years coaching experience)
  • Coaches received feedback on their coaching conversation videos

 The biggest takeaways:

  • When initially asked to coach, many managers instead demonstrated a form of consulting.
  • They simply provided the other person with advice or a solution.
  • Typical comments observed: “First you do this” or “Why don’t you do this?”
  • Micromanaging-as-coaching was reinforced as good practice by other research participants.
  • In the first coaching exercise, evaluations peers gave one another were significantly higher than the evaluations from experts.
  • In an organizational setting, you can imagine how a group of executives, having convinced one another of their superior skills, could institutionalize preaching-as-coaching.

 FLIP’D Calls to Action

1. Make sure your coaching is clearly different (and defined) from typical management behavior. It’s appropriate to communicate clearly when shifting into the “coaching mode” with your team.  This is different from the operational mode of running the business and driving revenue. Being transparent with your team about your coaching behaviors and expectations is key. Make coaching conversations very different and extremely obvious. 

2. Practice in a safe environment first before coaching teams. This is the foundation of the FLIP’D workshops and the follow-up sessions with your peer coaching groups. These give you ample opportunity to share best practices and get some “at-bats” with coaching scenarios. Executives, we encourage you to probe your first line managers about their recent coaching experiences — both quality, tools, and cadence.

3. Invest in some type of training. This study corroborates the importance of having some type of coaching framework, tools and methodology to lean on. More knowledge and training = higher perceived coaching skills by the coach. Make sure all new leaders into an organization gain access to these tools and trainings as well.

4. Ask for some expert feedback. The research clearly demonstrates there is a huge risk in letting non-experts provide feedback on your coaching efforts. This can normalize or reinforce bad habits (diminisher) traits that are rooted in basic management philosophies but not good coaching techniques. Leverage sales leaders you trust as good coaches to plan, prepare and practice. Also you can leverage your company’s internal experts that have been trained in these techniques. Most executives will be glad to hop on a 1:1 call, team call or FLIP’D peer learning group session to listen, observe and provide feedback on your coaching approach.

 As the research states, if you takeaway only ONE THING from this article …

Coaching is a skill that needs to be LEARNED and HONED over a period of time.

Happy coaching!