Corporate IT: Five Signs of Bad Coaching

Coaching is a critical part of developing employees and helping them acquire the right skills and experience. This is especially true for IT employees, who now face a world where technical skills have a shorter shelf life and the ability to work with a wide range of people, explain difficult concepts, and get a particular point of view across have all become increasingly important.

Managers have a big role to play in this transition; indeed, those who are effective at developing their direct reports increase employee performance by 25%, according to CEB data. The most effective managers also focus on the quality, not the quantity of their interactions with their direct reports.

Five Signs

There is certainly a lot of advice around how to coach, so it may be useful to have a list of what not to do. Here are five things to keep in mind if you want to avoid falling in the trap of bad coaching.

  1. Telling more than asking: Managers often tend to spend too much time “telling,” delivering one-way feedback. Managers should try to speak around 30% of the time when coaching. The best way to stick to this balance is to use open-ended, probing questions to help employees discover things for themselves (after all, if it worked for Socrates, it’ll probably work for you…).

  2. Focusing on the “why” and not the “how”: The difference between a good and an average manager is not the amount of time spent coaching but their focus on different aspects of coaching. While good managers spend most of their coaching on “how” to improve on identified skill gaps, average managers focus their time on telling employees “why” they should improve.

  3. Coaching all employees equally: Most managers believe that all staff should be coached equally. However, not all who receive coaching, even from good managers, necessarily perform better from being given a sustained period of coaching.

    Coaches should target the largest group of mid-level performers to improve performance and focus their time with the high-performers on retaining them. Managers should also identify and tailor their coaching approach to employees’ learning preferences.

  4. Relying solely on scheduled coaching sessions: The best managers integrate coaching in regular conversations and interactions with their teams, not just during formal performance reviews, to help employees absorb coaching lessons faster.

  5. Coaching based on manager’s own experience: Managers are often guilty of prescribing their own approach to a problem or difficult challenge, instead of allowing employees to arrive at a solution on their own. Even worse is for a manager to resolve a challenge themselves, rather than allowing the employee to handle the issue.


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