Who needs a coach at work?

KarenClient Success, Coaching

The short answer – no one, really.

But that’s based on the “need” idea rather than being provocatively disparaging about what we do for a living.

Technically, at least to we coaching “purists,” the right state of mind for coaching is “want” as opposed to “need.”

When we are invited into an organization one of the first questions we are going to ask is whether the person being recommended for coaching is receptive to doing the work related to coaching and that is always a part of growth and development. Note that we don’t ask “are they receptive to HAVING a coach?” because the answer to that question often gets mired in ego (“my organization is investing in me”) or misperception (“it will be great to have someone to talk to”). So being receptive to doing some work is a sign that the individual really wants to grow and improve.

We also try to not be introduced as the saviour when things are not working out. If there’s a performance issue either the individual hasn’t been given feedback or they aren’t willing to change. If the first is true, maybe we can coach the manager on how to give feedback, at which point we can see whether the individual is in fact open. But if feedback has been given and no change has occurred, we probably can’t help. Besides, no organization really wants to spend money on a last ditch effort.

The optimal conditions for developmental coaching occur when:

  1. there’s growth needed (whether it’s to be successful in the current role or to be prepared for a new one),
  2. the individual knows that growth is needed, and
  3. the individual is willing to do some work.

In the case of a performance gap or corrective situation, we also want to know that the manager is supportive, and that they’re willing to pave the way for others to notice and accept any changes the individual makes.

To say someone “needs” a coach is to imply that they’re broken, or that they aren’t capable of growing or changing on their own. Our ideal client is in fact totally capable. We can accelerate their process, we can support their development in new competency areas, and we can provide objective feedback based on what we observe. And when we’ve done all of that – when we’ve achieved the objectives set for our engagement –  we leave – which is really why we don’t want the client to “need” us. We hate sad goodbyes.