Coaching Is a Copout

These days “coaching” has become quite a buzzword. There is much discussion about the results coaching can produce, the various types of coaching (tennis coaches, life coaches, and everything in between), coaching strategies and best practices, when to coach, and who to coach. Almost everyone now has the word “coach” in their resume.

There is no one on the planet who’s a bigger fan of coaching than me. I began coaching when I was 14 as a children’s tennis coach and my journey has led me to coaching both amateur and professional golfers and tennis players, musicians, public speakers, and executives. And I’ve witnessed some amazing results from this thing we call coaching.

We all know instinctively that good coaching drives lasting results. Athletes and musicians have always hired coaches to help them figure out the quickest, most effective way to improve performance.

And now the business world recognizes coaching is a powerful way to improve performance within organizations. Coaching has been shown to boost everything from revenue and productivity to employee engagement and retention. And it’s one of the most important skills needed to “manage” Millennials and Generation Z. Its impact on performance and engagement has been repeatedly demonstrated, so many organizations have invested considerable resources training for managers and leaders to be better coaches.

Yet despite the time and money dedicated to building managers’ coaching skills, many organizations struggle to achieve the behavior change they are looking for. All too often, although managers have the knowledge of how to coach, at the end of the day, they aren’t actually doing it.

Employees of these well-trained and well-intentioned managers frequently say they aren’t getting the coaching they want—or at least, not enough of it.

When managers explain why they aren’t coaching, the most common refrain is: “I’m too busy doing all the other things I have to do.” It’s one more thing on a to do list that is already too long.

They make coaching a separate thing to be done. Something else to fit into an already busy schedule.

So, when I look at coaching in the business world, I find myself wondering: Is the notion of “coaching conversations” a cop out? Does the concept of “coaching conversations” allow us off the hook for doing what we could or should be doing in every conversation?

I would say yes—at least in most of our conversations. And here’s why.

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