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Gillian McCready



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Letting go of knowing – Manager as Coach training


I often run workshops to help managers develop their coaching skills and find that one of the biggest blocks to their progress is their need to share their knowledge or solutions with their coachee, even though this may not best meet their coachee's needs.  I model, we discuss and they practise being non-directive, but I wonder if you have an activity that enables them to experience a real shift?  I recall how difficult it was when I first trained as a coach to let go of the belief that in order to be helpful and valuable, I had to have or share some knowledge or advice.  It took a lot of time and practise to truly change this belief so maybe I am asking for the impossible!

9 Responses

  1. Mentor/coach

    Hi Gillian

    Something I have used during coaching workshops are Hats, (I have used a bowler for mentor/telling mode and baseball cap for coach).  As they practice their coaching skills they wear the baseball cap & the coachee / trainer / observers tell them to change hats when they drift into a mentor/telling mode. It has even been known that they reach for the other hat themselves when they realise they are drifting!!   It reinforces the different hats they are wearing for these very different roles and they soon get the hang of it.

    Hope this helps



    O D Innovations


  2. an anecdote from the past

    Hi Gillian

    I ran a coaching workshop in the early Triassic for a commercial bank

    Each delegate was asked to bring with them a real development issue from their last annual appraisal to be coached on.

    One manager, only two years from retirement, brought a performance issue he had been struggling with for several years. 

    We paired people with people they didn’t know and didn’t work with. This fellow was paired with a young graduate tech-spec (eight months out of University) who worked in a very narrow field and had never managed staff in his life.

    The result was wonderful, simply because the non-directive coach didn’t have a clue about the subject matter of the coachee.

    Unfortunately, when you are expressly trying to encourage managers to coach their own teams they will almost always feel a self generated pressure to be the person with the answers; that is their day job and their reison d’etre, whereas as a coach they need to be the "Guardian of the Question".

    One client company I worked with more recently found that part of the problem was time: it is quicker for a manager to give the answer than to ask questions and encourage the coachee to come up with the answers; the "solution" was two fold,

    Firstly, they now formally allow managers to take up to 20% of their working time to spend coaching their people (that sounds radical but it is one day per week to be a manager rather than a specialist, with a team of eight people that equals less than one hour per person per week)

    Secondly, we proved to managers that coaching doesn’t have to take a long time: Martini Coaching~ Anytime, anyplace, anywhere! can be 5 minuites at the coffee station, rather than "book a room, block out an hour in the diary, etc"

    I hope this helps

    happy to talk more if you want


  3. Hats!

    What a good idea, thank you!  I think it would be very helpful to have a physical prompt, which may also become a reminder in the future, as you have created a mental picture for them to carry with them.   In fact, you have just reminded me of an idea that one of my supervisees came up with, which is to have rolls of masking tape to pass between participants, to signal that they are giving solutions or sharing their experience! 

  4. Martini coaching

    Martini – what a wonderful way of describing "impromptu" or "spot" coaching, which are such boring names!  Thank you – as with the hats idea above, it will stick in the managers’ memories and so encourage them to do it, hopefully.  Tell me, though, do Martini still use that as a strapline, or will our younger managers look at me askance when I use it?!

  5. circle coaching

    I used an activity that certainly stayed in people’s minds…

    The group sat in a circle and were all "the manager" who was meant to be coaching. I sat in the circle as the "staff member being coached". I presented my work problem (one that coaching would perhaps help me to solve)

    Then starting on my left each person coud say or ask one thing (in role) and I would respond (in role). They had no come-back whatever I said. The next person in the circle took the conversation on, with the next comment or question and my reply. And so on round the circle. It is pretty shocking to have no come-back, to have your question or comment left standing.

    For example "Have you tried….?"

    Me "No." end of their turn.

    Next person "Why not?"

    Me "Because I didn’t want to." end of their turn.

    Next person (slipping into instruction) "What you need to do is……"

    Me "I don’t want to do that."

    Next person (a quick learner)  "I’d like to hear more about what you have tried so far, and what the results were."

    Me (outlined what I had tried and answered the question more fully)

    and so on. I could be as tricky or as helpful in my role as the coachee as seemed appropriate, and they really had to think about each thing they said. Of course they got much better as the session went on, and everyone used to say that it was a horrible experience but really taught them about coaching as opposed to instructing.

    It gives people a (admittedly painful) slow motion demonstration of the usefulness or otherwise of various comments or questions.

  6. Circle coaching

    Thank you, this is a really good idea.  I think it sounds a very memorable learning experience; one that they will carry with them after the workshop.  I think it may also give them an insight into why some of their team members come across as resistant to them, which is not necessarily to do with their unwillingness to learn, change or take personal responsibility.  They are giving some the opportunity not to engage, and others may be very literal in their responses.  I shall try this next time!

  7. anytime etc

    Hi Gillian

    Martini haven’t used it for some time but it is a lyric by the original "manufactured boy-band" the Monkees.

    Mr Stephen "I love taking the mick out of people by demonstrating my intellect" Fry apparently picked on the phrase as an example of RAS Syndrome….(Redundant Acronym Syndrome) by pointing out that any place and anywhere were the same thing

    but what the hell!


  8. RAS

    Very good!  You made me smile AND answered my question; thank you.


  9. Hats!

    What a great idea, thank you!  I am about to run a follow up day to a coaching workshop and I think this will be very useful.



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Gillian McCready


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