Exploding a Coaching myth.

In the last 2 weeks I have worked with two different groups of managers,  in which the subject of Coaching has come up.  It surprises me how consistently several themes come out when we explore this area.

Firstly, the majority of them had no idea what it was like to be coached.  This was a new experience for them (and it was met with a “Wow” reaction, even when the person coaching them had never coached before, we were in a training room with several other groups talking at the same time, AND I had to cut each session down to just 10 minutes).

Secondly, what came out was a common myth – a belief that I think holds people back from  coaching their team members more often.  Here it is:

“I need to be an expert if I am going to coach someone effectively.”

I SO disagree.  I propose the complete opposite:  it helps NOT to know anything about the subject you are coaching in.  Why?  Because then you cannot fall down the two rabbit holes which so often ruin the coaching session:

1.  Closing in on the the answer too soon

2.  Having an answer in mind too early and then providing it, rather than letting the person being coached find it themselves.

So often a coach is there to help the person find their own answer, and this is so much easier if you don’t know what it is yourself!  Again, having an 8 year old’s head rather than a ‘manager’ head will help the coach to ease the answers out of the other person.

But if you feel you need to coach in order to provide answers yourself, you will tend to avoid coaching others.  This I think is why it is so often a rare activity, and certainly not seen as a core part of a manager’s job.

This is not him, in case you’re wondering.

I speak from personal experience about not needing to provide answers.  I have a degree in Music, and used to teach saxophone and clarinet to mainly young people.  I once had a teenage sax pupil who got as far as he could with the traditional saxophone exam structure before needing to take a music theory exam.  He was reluctant to do this (it probably wasn’t very cool).  So he asked me if I could take him through the Jazz Saxophone syllabus (which didn’t require music theory), and thus teach him how to improvise.  As someone who learnt from the age of 5 how to play dots on sheets of music, this was quite a challenge!   I knew how hard I find it to improvise, and yet I am being asked to coach someone in how to do it.


Needless to say we did it, and he got top marks in the final Jazz exam.  He turned out to be great at it, and I got a great personal takeaway, which is that I learnt how to do it myself.

What’s been your experience of being coached, and what is the coaching culture where you work?  Do managers have the same fear that I keep running into?

© Vladimirs Poplavskis – Fotolia.com

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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8 Responses to Exploding a Coaching myth.

  1. Pingback: Coaching made simple. One good question is all you need. | Real Learning, for a Change

  2. Esme Barnard says:

    Hi Michael,I know I am here in the old archives, but hey, I have just read what it is that always kept me from thinking about myself of not being a coach. I may be wrong but the feeling here is that is so similar to Lay Counselling, as the person needs to come to his/her own conclusion. Then even though I have been in the finance industry, I din council many of my clients and colleagues without even realizing it 🙂
    Thanks for all your amazing stories and insight.


    • Hi Esme. Many thanks for your thoughts. Sounds as if you may be more of a coach than you realize! Maybe, even more subtly. your coaching clients don;t realize it either! That would be a sign, in my view, of something very effective and powerful, and not something many people would find the ability to do. Keep up the good work!


  3. Derrick says:

    I like this style of thinking, I used to work at a place where we would team people up and they had to coach each other in how to juggle, despite the fact that neither party could juggle to begin with. It was based on the same theory, that you did not need to be an ex[ert to provide coaching/feedback, and it was fun at the same time. PS: Juggling had nothing to do with there work, other than juggling priorities.


    • Hi Derrick. I love that idea! Two way coaching where neither of you has done it before. I wonder how that would translate to the workplace? Might cause some difficulty in certain fields I imagine! But I would love to give it a go.

      Thanks for sharing.


  4. Angela Sarabia says:

    I couldn’t agree more!! I often hear this from manager’s as being one of the key reasons for not coaching others, and have spent quite some time over the last 18months trying to “bust” this myth. We now teach a Leader as Coach program from InsideOut Development, which focuses on the concept of pulling the answers out of the coachee through a structured questioning process based on the GROW model. This approach advocates that in many cases, coaching is not about adding more knowledge, but rather about recognizing that often the coachee already has the knowledge. Therefore the key to coaching is in ‘guiding’ the coachee to come up with the answers themselves by helping to gain focus, faith and/or fire! Coupled with practical speed coaching practice, using real business issues brought along by participants, this approach is proving to be highly successful in our organization!


    • We’re on the same page, Ange! Totally. It sounds easy, just get the coachee to come up with the answers they already have. Actually quite hard to do it you already have an opinion, or have had the same experience! Using the ‘two ears and one mouth” ratio is easier said than done. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  5. Mnemonist says:

    brilliant article. insightful, informative and interesting. thanks for sharing.


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