• 7th March 2008 - By proteman

    You know who they are. They’re the employees who squirm when you mention having a coaching discussion with them. They’re always “busy” when you want to talk about their development or give them some feedback. And when you do get a coaching meeting scheduled, they placate you by nodding their heads compliantly – or sit silently – anything to get the meeting over with.

    They’re reluctant coachees.

    I asked some of my colleagues who are professional executive coaches what they do with someone who doesn’t seem to want coaching. Not surprisingly, they all said that they don’t coach unwilling participants. You can’t coach someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

    I agree with that. But if you’re a manager or in an internal (corporate) coaching role, it may not be that easy. You can’t simply “turn down” coaching gigs when coaching is part of your job. So what do you do, as a manager or internal coach, when faced with people who resist your help?

    It’s not like you don’t have any options. You can always avoid them, focusing your attention on those employees who really want your help. Or you can just fire them.

    Before writing these people off as just “difficult”, however, try to diagnose why they resist your help. Once you understand what’s behind the resistance, you’ll be better equipped to address it. If nothing else, you may find that you’re just dealing with a difficult, stubborn person who refuses help and needs to seek other employment. At least you’ll know.

    Here are five common reasons that people resist coaching.

    1. The Veteran Aura

    This works two ways. Seasoned employees may be afraid to let it be known that they need coaching. After all, they’ve been around. Other employees probably ask them for advice. They view coaching as something that’s for newbies, not them.

    Managers often fuel this perception by leaving veterans alone. “They don’t need my help,” they think. Or they wonder, “What value can I add? The veteran’s been here longer than me!”

    The downside to this cycle is two-fold. One, veterans without coaching may plateau and never reach their full potential. We all get stale and form bad habits over the years. By leaving veterans alone, you’re not doing them a favor. In fact, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to learn and be challenged – and holding your company back from reaching its growth potential.

    The other downside is that veterans who aren’t coached may feel ignored, which can lead to poor morale or even turnover. An ignored employee is ripe pickings for a recruiter working for the competition. Most veterans won’t say that they feel ignored or isolated, because they don’t want to sound needy. But everyone likes to be recognized. Providing good coaching shows that you care and are interested in what the veteran is doing.

    2. Been Burned in the Past

    When you hire people or inherit a team, everyone brings their old baggage. If people on your team had poor managers in the past (who led through intimidation or used coaching as an excuse to criticize), don’t expect them to welcome your coaching with open arms. They’ve got trust issues – and being coached requires a lot of trust.

    It’s a lot like personal relationships. Once bitten, twice shy. If you marry and divorce an overbearing spouse who is a control-freak, you’re likely to be turned off by future dating prospects with strong personalities. It’s a natural human response to being burned.

    You can find out if “been burned in the past” is an issue by simply talking to your team members. Ask, “Tell me a little about how your last manager coached you and gave feedback,” “What did or didn’t you like about how that coaching relationship went?” Or, “I want this coaching relationship to be effective. How do you like to be coached?” This type of dialogue can clear the air about any bad past experiences with coaching, and give you a fresh start by establishing new expectations for your coaching relationship.

    3. They Don’t Know How to Participate

    It may sound odd, but some people just don’t know how to receive coaching. These may be the people that sit silently during coaching discussions, nodding their heads occasionally (like bobbleheads) and contributing little. It may be that they don’t know what they’re supposed to do in a coaching discussion. Or they may think that coaching means that you tell them what to do.

    If you expect your team members to participate in their coaching discussions, you should set that expectation. Don’t assume that your “picture” of coaching is the same as the employee’s picture. You can set clear expectations by:
    Letting them know, before the discussion, why you want to talk and the agenda for the coaching conversation.

    • Explaining clearly what you expect of them during the discussion. (“I expect that this will be a two-way dialogue where we can tackle this problem together.”)
    • Being clear about how to prepare for the coaching meeting. (“I’d like to to bring your financial analysis and projections for the next three months, and any supporting data you’d like me to see, so we can go through it together.”)
    • Asking them what they’d like to get from the coaching discussion

    4. Personal Issues (Out of your control.)

    Sometimes, people just don’t want to be helped and you can’t do anything about it. This should be your last conclusion, after you’ve explored tested other theories and tried various approaches. And as my executive coaching friends point out, you can’t coach someone who just doesn’t want it.

    5. Look in the Mirror (It may be you!)

    It isn’t easy to think about, but sometimes the problem is us (I include myself in this, even though I think I’m a pretty good coach). Coaching isn’t easy. It takes a consultative mindset, patience, emotional intelligence – and a whole lot of skill and practice. You may need a coaching tune-up or some pointers, like the ones offered in TLG’s thinktwice Coaching Cards. Remember, you’re a role model for the people y
    ou coach. When you start with yourself – and show that you’re able to work on your coaching skills – you’re sending the message that “everyone needs coaching…even the coach!”

    Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

  • 2 Comments to “I Don’t WANNA Be Coached! (What to do when employees don’t want coaching.)”

    • rocky on March 22, 2008

      Excellent article. To be effective as a coach we have to understand where the client is coming from. In other words we have to let them set the agenda. Sometimes there is nothing we can and sometimes nothing is the best thing to do. I will use these points as I enter into coaching relationships in the future.

    • Phyllis Roteman on March 25, 2008

      Hi Rocky and thanks for weighing in. I’m a city girl, but I know that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink and you can’t teach a pig to fly.

      Glad this helped! Phyllis

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