Can you be a boss AND a coach?
Consider the 3 development pathways for upskilling your staff:
✳️ Mentor: You share your years of experience for them to absorb
✳️ Trainer: You teach key skills and step-by-step instructions
✳️ Coach: You guide staff to arrive at their own solution
Which is best?
Of course, that depends on:
✳️ Your key employee
✳️ Their situation
For lasting change, I believe coaching is the best choice for developing senior staff (especially if your staff already have plenty of standard training).
But coaching creates a problem – it’s not easy being the boss AND a coach.
Here are some of the boss vs coach challenges I’ve observed (and ideas to overcome them):
Challenge: Leaving your ideas at the door
As the boss, it’s tempting to engineer the result you’re looking for.
You know the outcomes you expect from a staff member, but you want them to come to the same conclusion.
To be a good coach, suspend any preconceived ideas about the outcome you want.
Challenge: The Coaching Bias
It’s difficult not to carry bias into a coaching session, but put aside your judgements about the person you’re coaching and address the facts.
If your biases come through, your coaching credibility is shot.
It helps to be less closed-minded by observing your direct report from other people’s perspectives.
Gathering different views about a staff member helps neutralise your biases and creates a shift in how you perceive them.
It also means you’re sharing valuable feedback that doesn’t come directly from their boss.
Challenge: You’re the boss
Are you part of the challenge your direct report is struggling with?
If so, this prejudices you (and them), preventing an open and honest coaching conversation.
Often the person will see you solely as their boss (not a coach).
You can change this, but it takes time to develop a relationship outside of your ‘boss’ role. It’s a difficult balance.
Challenge: Coaching takes time
You can’t switch into mentoring or training mode and start telling the person what to do.
It’s hard to slow down and let the person work out a way forward, particularly when you’re busy and deadlines are looming.
Added to this, you must provide consistency. Regular coaching is beneficial but may be a problem for your calendar.
How do you manage this situation with the people who report to you?
Good coaching will definitely up their game and give them the confidence to know that they can solve their own problems in the future, leaving you more time to do what you do best.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Lao Tzu