From time to time, I am asked to coach someone and because of several factors I decide that my work will not provide an optimum outcome, so I decline the opportunity.  What are the signs I look for that a coaching engagement will not be a success?

1. The belief by the coachee that coaching is punishment and not an opportunity.

People might view coaching as a bad thing. This is often due to two primary factors.  The first is past experiences where coaching was used as a last ditch effort to turn around performance and the end result was the person being coached was asked to leave shortly after the coaching engagement. The second factor is a poor invitation to having a coach. One of the worst I experienced was accepting a coaching engagement where my client was told about her upcoming coaching assignment by being asked to sign my coaching agreement!  I didn’t find this out until after the start of our work together and needless to say, it took awhile to build trust with her.

2. The belief by the coachee that there is nothing that they can learn from the process.

This generally comes from a lack of self-awareness or arrogance. A lack of self-awareness  can be addressed by using assessments such as a 360 or the Hogan suite of leadership assessments. In general, most people are open to assessments which help open their eyes or validate what they may have heard from others in the past, yet chose to dismiss the observations and feedback.

Arrogance, however, is a different situation which rarely can be overcome when it is extreme.  In fact it is a leading leadership derailer. The people who display high levels of arrogance believe that they know everything and that the are above reproach and learning new things. I can generally sniff out extreme arrogance without a formal assessment. And for me personally, I will always decline to coach these individuals.

3. A manager/leader who wants to abdicate his role of developer to an executive coach.

Just because you have hired an outside coach, doesn’t mean you stop your own coaching with them. The very best results I have had with coaching are when the executive sponsors, including the manager of the person being coached, are actively involved with the process by providing me with feedback on behavioral changes being observed and any slippages in the process. A coach acts in partnership with the sponsors. Those times when the executive isn’t providing timely feedback often lead to less than optimal results.

4. A manager/leader who will use coaching as a last resort to performance improvement.

This scenario is one that I come across more times than not and the problem is that unless my client is transparent with me, I generally am not able to uncover this scenario until deep into the process. I do have some screening questions I use up front, yet many executives truly believe that the need for coaching is not a last ditch effort.  Coaching should always be used proactively rather than reactively. If it is used as a last ditch effort, then others in the organization will believe is is punishment and future coaching opportunities will be at risk of being successful.

If they cannot be coached or coaching is not what is needed for the situation, then a good coach will have an open discussion with the executive sponsor.

Leadership Tip:  When deciding on an executive coach for a team member, ask candidates “when was the last time they declined a coaching opportunity and why?” 

With proper use of coaching, employees can have a positive learning experience and develop their own coaching skills while being coached.

Who on your team could benefit the most from coaching?

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