Last week at SD Best Practices, I led an experiential half-day session about coaching. A significant number of the participants thought their job was to teach the other person what to do. (I think one person actually said “lead them to enlightenment.”)
While it may be true in sports or school coaching, peer-to-peer coaching is much more about generating and discussing options than it is about the One Best Choice. Even if the manager is coaching, that’s still peer-to-peer coaching for me.
During the session, I focused the participants on coaching each other through generating options and discussing the consequences or results of those options. I learned something in the class–several people felt as if consequences was a negative word and preferred results. Ok, I can live with that 🙂
I taught several more sessions at SD, and by the time I taught my last session, several of the participants had talked to me and said virtually the same thing: “Gee, teaching someone else what to do really does occur less often than I thought it did. The things that work for me don’t necessarily work for the other person. (image of short person doing the happy dance 🙂
Sometimes when we coach at work, we explain an alternative the other person can’t consider because the other person doesn’t have the experience. But after the first few years of work, those times occur less and less often. And that’s fine.
So as you practice your coaching, don’t be afraid to go meta, and ask questions that help the other person generate alternatives and evaluate those alternatives. Be wary of giving advice as soon as you hear the problem–it’s likely that the problem being explained is not the real problem. If necessary, teach. But don’t use teaching as your first choice. The other person likely has the key to the solution inside him or her–and it’s almost always different from what you suggest.