Ask anyone to give a list of roles or tasks of a leader, especially in the context of organizational leadership, and coaching and mentoring will quickly rise to the top.
This is no surprise, and even the most novice supervisor recognizes the importance of coaching. Any yet for a variety of reasons, we don’t always do it so well.
One reason we don’t coach well is that we don’t think we have time. It is like a leader once once told me a workshop I was leading on coaching. “This is really important stuff Kevin, but it takes time and I need to do my real work.” This mental challenge deserves more time and I will discuss it in a future post.
Another reason we don’t coach so well is that we coach for the wrong result. We coach for knowledge rather than coaching for skills. We do this for four major reasons:
- we don’t think about the differences
- we figure out that it is easier to coach for knowledge
- we assume people can translate knowledge into skills
- we assume that coaching is coaching – and the skills that we use in coaching for knowledge vs. skills are the same
These four points will form the basis of my next three posts. But let’s start with the first bullet.
If we don’t think about the difference between skills and knowledge, there would be no reason to think about coaching for them differently.
If you observe any part of life for very long you will recognize that there is a big difference between what we know and what we do. We know that driving too fast changes our odds of surviving an accident, but most people drive above the posted speed limits. We know that exercise will make us healthier and live a longer life, yet too few of us walk run, visit the gym or turn our our treadmills. And perhaps closer to home, we know that coaching is important, yet we don’t spend much of our time doing it.
When you think about it, there is a big difference between knowing something and doing something.
In order to get the coaching results you want, you must first understand what you are coaching for – knowledge or skill. Once you recognize the difference, you have a better chance at coaching more successfully.
We will deal with the other bullet points in the coming days, but for now, consider this one of your leadership activities today – look for knowledge/ skill gaps among your team members – where what they are doing doesn’t match what they know.
And while you are at it, do this same analysis on yourself.
Both of these activities will set the stage for the next post in this process and give you plenty to think about in the meantime.