Over the last couple of days I have posted about some challenges we face when coaching and mentoring. I talked about Why We Coach and Coaching For Knowledge. Both dealt with the differences between knowledge and skills. Today I briefly tackle a major blind spot we face in this area as a leader and coach.
As leaders we have usually risen to our current role because we have some expertise – whether in the technical nature of our team’s work (we were great sales people and become a sales manager or we were the best engineer so we became the chief engineer) or because of our leadership skills or both.
Because we bring a level of expertise to our role, it is easy for us to translate a piece of knowledge advice into the appropriate skill or behavior change. Unfortunately our expertise can become a hindrance, because that translation that seems so obvious to us (due to our experience and expertise) is far from obvious to the person we are coaching.
Here’s a simple example. If you are coaching someone on improving their presentation skills, you might tell them that having their hands in their pocket is a distraction (fact/knowledge). This fact doesn’t tell the person what to do – i.e. what motions or gestures they could use (behavior/skill) instead.
Here is one of your leadership activities before your next coaching session. Think about the skill that you want changed or repeated. Focus your coaching and feedback on the skills needed, as opposed to simply providing knowledge or facts.
In some ways it is no different from you talking to me in Russian, assuming I know it (after all it is easy for you – you speak Russian!). However badly I want to hear and use your feedback and coaching, if it all comes in Russian, I won’t be able to access it, and therefore your coaching will be less effective than either one of us wishes.
The next time (and every time) you are coaching, make the translation – help them know what skills you want them to use. When you do, you will have significantly greater results!