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  • Writer's picturePaolo Pironi

Do reportees ACTUALLY need your advice? Coaching: why it’s so hot right now

Your team definitely needs your support. But your advice? Well… how do I put this gently… it’s friggin’ useless.

I’m not talking about the quality of the advice: I’m sure you’re an experienced chap or chapesse, with lots of smart stuff so say to people. But when it comes to supporting others, ‘smart’ doesn't always mean ‘useful’.

Telling people what they should do isn’t ideal, for 3 main reasons:

  1. People don’t learn when you tell them something, they learn when they reflect upon it themselves

  2. Teaching others “how to fish” will make them less reliant on you (you win - aren’t you too busy to babysit your employees anyway?)

  3. It will help them come up with original solutions that fit their style (as opposed to applying solutions that fit your own style) - this will maximise their motivation and effectiveness in applying them

The solution that Management scholars hail is *****drum roll***** Coaching! So what is it, why is it so effective, and how do you do it?

Mentoring vs. Coaching

When you leverage your experience to tell others what they should do, you’re Mentoring them.

By contrast, Coaching is to ask the right questions to help people solve their own problems. Sir John Whitmore defined coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

In future articles, I’ll write a detailed primer on how to apply one of the most popular Coaching techniques - the GROW technique (subscribe here, you don’t want to miss it!). But today, let me explain why Coaching is almost always better than Mentoring.

‘Lectures’ don’t work because adults learn differently from children

Through school, we’re used to sitting in lectures where teachers TELL us stuff, and then test us on our ability to repeat what they told us (reciting concepts, applying problem-solving processes, etc.). This way of teaching is topic-centric and is rooted in Pedagogy, the science of teaching children.

By contrast Andragogy, the science of teaching adults, recommends a learner-centric approach. As explained in Malcolm Knowles’s seminal textbook “The Adult Learner”, we should teach adults by starting from an actual problem and then diving into the topics that lead to the solution of that problem. What’s even more interesting is that adults don’t learn by listening to others - adults actually learn by reflecting and applying the learnings to solve their own problems.

This modern science discovery echoes the words of a famous polymath, who had already guessed this truth in the 1600’s, when he said:

“You cannot teach others anything, you can only help them find it within themselves.” - Galileo

Why are managers always busy? Most don’t teach their reportees ‘how to fish’

In the short term, Coaching is admittedly slower than just telling people the solution. But don’t be deceived: telling people the solution won’t teach them much and will make them dependent on you. In the long run, that will bite you in the *ss many times over.

Hastily giving people solutions defeats the purpose of building companies. If you manage a team of 5 people, it’s because 5 brains and 10 hands can produce and figure out more stuff than just your 1 brain and 2 hands. These 5 brains have a fraction of your experience, true, but coaching is the fastest way to transfer your expertise to them.

If you invest the time in Coaching now, you’ll be repaid with a Self-Managing team of super motivated top performers. This will free your time and headspace and allow you make your best, strategic contribution to your company, increase your satisfaction and fall in love with your job all over again.

Next steps for you to become an expert Coach

So do you get why Mugatu err… the Management scholars are so excited about Coaching? Do you want to learn how you, too, can reap its incredible benefits?

In the next articles, I’ll explain in detail how to apply my favourite Coaching techniques - from easiest to more advanced. You can subscribe here now to ensure you don’t miss them!

And if you can’t wait, you can definitely message me directly, I look forward to hearing all your Coaching questions!

Happy Coaching!

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