Coaching Myths

Authored / contributed by Matt S. from Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

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Coaching  6 min 2.87 K 50
It is widely agreed that coaching is a much-misunderstood concept and it is perhaps not surprising that many myths have sprung up around the subject. Can you see any truth in the following for example?
"Everything‘s fine we don't really have any problems and so we don't need any coaching."

Many people believe that coaching is about putting wrong things right. They would argue that things must be pretty poor in the organization if it needs armies of people going round solving other peoples' problems. If coaching is required then it should be a short-term solution and the coaches should move on when things have been sorted out.


"I'm not a manager or team leader so I don't have anyone to coach."

We know that coaching is a people development tool so, by definition that means we must have people to coach. What then is the point of developing good coaching skills if we do not currently operate as a manager, supervisor or team leader and do not have any people reporting to us?


"I haven't time to coach."

If we think for a moment that a typical team will have at least 6 to 8 people working in it, then we can begin to see that the team leader's task is almost hopeless. 6 to 8 people, all wanting coaching every six weeks or so, in sessions lasting up to an hour. How would we do any work?


"I can't coach - I've no expertise in the underlying subject."

How can we coach somebody to do something we can't do ourselves? How can we keep up with all the changes in the way people do their jobs? How can we expect people to take us seriously as managers if we're not prepared or able to do what we ask them to do?


"I went on a course about this, but then it was called feedback. That's all coaching really is."

For many people, coaching is something that happens as part of the organization's Performance Management or Appraisal system. In some organizations coaches have been known to sit behind a colleague whilst they're dealing with a customer and make notes on the things they did well or badly. Usually, the individual and the coach would then retire to a quiet area where the coach could run through the list and make suggestions for improvement.


"This is just a fancy new name for what I've been doing for years - training people!"

Can we really see any daylight between coaching and other methods of developing people? Coaching is ultimately about making people better at what they do, but then so is teaching, training, mentoring, counselling etc.

In fact, each of these statements is a myth.


"Everything fine we don't really have any problems and so we don't need any coaching."

Coaching is a marvellous tool for problem solving and whilst in most cases people will seek coaching because they have a problem to solve, it would be a mistake to limit it to this purpose alone.

Some managers suffer a sort of ‘prodigal son' mentality and spend all of their time and energy addressing the poorest performers. But let's not assume that people who are currently performing really well do not have vast reserves of potential that might be released through coaching.

Even the best performers benefit from coaching. We need only look at the world of sport to know that this is true.


"I'm not a manager or team leader so I don't have anyone to coach."

Typically coaching is delivered by managers to staff or by team leaders to team members and this is usually because companies and other businesses are organized in a hierarchy. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Anyone can be a coach. The skills of coaching are not in anyway connected to age, status, experience or job role. Similarly, coaching can be delivered in any direction and should not be limited to a top down approach from team leader to team member. Why not have nurses coaching consultants, printers coaching designers or classroom assistants coaching teachers?


"I haven't time to coach."

We might respond to this by suggesting that there isn't time not to coach! We must however recognize that coaching is in many ways an investment that pays back in the medium to long term. It can be very difficult for managers to decide whether to take the time and coach an individual through a problem or to deal with the situation themselves. This is a matter of choice and taking responsibility. Effective managers base their decision on an evaluation of the needs of the situation and the people involved and make an informed choice. Less effective managers will tend to see it as part of their role to solve all of the team's problems themselves, perhaps in the mistaken belief that this is the essence of strong leadership.

Managers who coach however are constantly generating responsibility and building trust with the teams and individuals they manage and as such are able to take on a more authoritative style when the need arises without alienating the team or damaging trust.


"I can't coach - I've no expertise in the underlying subject."

We need expertise to teach but not to coach. In coaching, expertise can be quite dangerous as it provides a huge temptation to slip back into telling people what to do, giving advice and ‘rescuing' people rather than letting them learn.

Where we find ourselves coaching people in matters we have expertise in, we must work hard to resist this temptation and remember that coaching is about helping people to lean and to become independent and resourceful. This is to everyone's benefit over time.


"I went on a course about this, but then it was called feedback. That's all coaching really is."

Well-constructed feedback can be extremely valuable to people as they try to improve performance in any area. However, it is limited to what we can observe and notice and this is of no consequence if the performance issue is to do with how people feel.

Poorly constructed feedback can do lasting damage and reinforce limiting beliefs. Coaching avoids the pitfalls by concentrating on the needs and experiences of the person being coached.


"This is just a fancy new name for what I've been doing for years - training people!"

Training has its place of course, and when done well, is an excellent way of arming people with the basic skills and knowledge they need to perform in their roles. Coaching comes into its own when we want to develop performance and allow people to utilise the full extent of the knowledge and skills they have gained through training.

Unlike training coaching derives its agenda from the needs of the individual, takes place at work (which is where learning really happens) and can be more or less be delivered anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

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This article is © copyright and contributed by

Matt S. from Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Matt S. is a specialist Executive Coach with expertise in Coaching, Train the Trainer and Customer Care, Service

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