Stuck in The Box – The Paradox of Great Coaches

By Barry Pruitt

dateSun, Jul 12, 2015 @ 12:00 PM

Are you stuck in a box when it comes to coaching your team? The ability to give constructive feedback is core for you to be a great coach. Entrepreneurs have evolved and shifted from controlling to empowering employees. Coaching has become a vital entrepreneurial tool. And herein lies the paradox.

A paradox can be thought of as a contradiction in terms. An online search reveals the following definition: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

Here are two key elements of the paradox of great entrepreneurial coaches:

1) They understand that coaching is critical for keeping A players and growing B players.

2) Many entrepreneurs believe they spend a disproportionate amount of time coaching, yet observation of their coaching incidents reveals that they aren’t really coaching.

Let’s begin by recognizing that successful coaching is not training, not reactive, not a form of discipline/reward, and requires full-time attention. Coaching is the process of utilizing an intentional approach to simultaneously teach, motivate, and organize your team member to attain higher levels of success (over time). 

NOTE: Reality requires that I acknowledge team members who do not accept coaching. Understood. Any team member that will not accept coaching should be slated for replacement by an “A” player. When someone is not producing as well as the team, team members will at first blame the person. Let this continue beyond a reasonable coaching period, and the team will ultimately blame you. For this article, I assume that your team members will accept the coaching offered.

Coaching willing players requires that you offer feedback. The more you hone your feedback skills, the better the results from your team. 

When considering feedback, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Is this feedback necessary and beneficial? If not, table your opinion, your comments and energy for feedback that is imperative and useful.
  2. Does this situation give you the opportunity to point out observable behaviors or activities? Without having a clear sense of exactly what the employee is doing and how they can make changes, mentioning an unclear or nondescript behavior (or activity) runs the risk of leaving a person feeling helpless. Helpless people tend to place blame, and blame causes dissension. Take the time to identify measurable behaviors before you give feedback. 
  3. How can you pose the situation as a learning opportunity versus a reprimand? This point is critical. If the employee walks away from the interaction having learned something about how to handle the next situation in a more productive way, then your role as coach has been a success!

Dr. Steve Gladis, coaching expert and author of over 13 books, is one source I follow for coaching Book-steve-gladisinsights. I asked Dr. Gladis to share some of his insights on coaching and the role of coaches in entrepreneurial companies. 

Q. Steve, how has the role of coaching changed in the last 10 years?
A. Coaching has evolved over the past 10 years to become more theory-practice centered. People are writing and teaching about the coaching practice as a body of knowledge begins to emerge. Thus, it’s beginning to become a bit of a discipline much like communications emerged. Also, as CEOs get more comfortable with the coaching process, many are recommending coaching to their leaders. Finally, with the exit of baby boomers, there’s much more interest in both legacy coaching on the one hand and on-board coaching on the other.
Q. How has coaching changed in the most recent downturn? Has organizational volatility affected the ability of managers/executives to track accountability, follow-through on execution and realistically expect results?
A. Certainly some organizations have retrenched financially; however, the more robust, forward thinking ones have continued to invest in the future and as a result will come out not only gaining market share but also developing healthier, more successful leaders.
Q. What is the most effective way to be coached or coach others? For example, is a group setting just as effective as consistent one-on-one coaching sessions?
A. Anyone can coach another person—be an “accountability partner.” The best coaches listen for the story behind the story by asking the right questions.  I think both group and individual coaching are equally powerful for different reasons. Groups carry the force of the team involved, while individual coaching focuses on the strong one-on-one relationship between coach and client.
Q. Tell me how your humanitarian work has fed into your professional projects. Do you feel that adding a humanitarian project is critical to executive self-development?
A. I have a powerful belief that we should all “do well to do good.” If you’ve been blessed with gifts, you have a responsibility to give back. At this point in life, both my wife Donna and I are trying to give away as much of our time, talent and money as possible. I enjoy watching others use it to make their own way, and with the hope they’ll “pay it forward” to the next generation.

I appreciate Dr. Gladis’ insights and suggest these next steps:

First: List the coaching skills you think are important.

Second: Rank the skills by use. How many examples of using this skill can you remember? Place a check mark beside the skill for every example that comes to mind. The one(s) with fewest checkmarks should be on your personal development list.

Third: Rank the importance of using each skill in your company in descending order. The number 1 is the skill that at this time, in your company, is most important for you. Number 2 is second most important, and so on. 

There will be an intersection of skills where you personally scored lowest and those you ranked highest in need by your company. Take action at that intersection to be the leader that steps out of the box, handles the coaching paradox, and breaks through to new business success.

Rhythm Systems People: Performance Coaching Tool



Barry Pruitt


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