Ask Skip: What’s the Easiest Way to Get People in the Workforce to Accept Coaching?

I get this question a lot these days because the concept of “coaching” is becoming so prevalent in the corporate and small business worlds.

First, you have to understand that not all feedback is coaching. Leaders and managers today tend to believe all their feedback is “coaching” and are surprised when their people respond defensively.

One thing I learned in working around professional athletes, whom you think would be open to “coaching” being that there are people called “coaches” all around them. Not so! Even some athletes are more coachable than others.

Even in those situations the coach has to recognize the subject must be ready, willing and open to accepting coaching.

In the lower minor leagues of professional baseball, where I spent most of my baseball management career, we had athletes come into our ranks that were the very best in the nation in college. They had been successful doing it their way for many, many years. Few are open to coaching to change their approach just because a more experienced professional coach thinks they see something they can help the athlete with.

What many coaches at the lower levels of minor league baseball do at the outset is let the young professional ballplayer apply their way of doing it until they start failing and begin struggling trying to overcome their challenges. Then, the coach will step in because they athlete is more open to the feedback at that time.

That’s a long answer to being sure your subject wants to be coached. They may need to be coached, as you see it, but, unless they see it, you are going to continue to be frustrated by a lack of application, and defensive and passive aggressive responses.

Secondly, coaching works in athletics because performance expectations are very clearly articulated. Each athlete knows what is expected of them and knows what they are being counted on to produce as a team member. When productivity expectations are not being met, it is easier to bring that to the team member’s attention and then ask them if you can help them do their jobs more effectively.

If they say “yes,” great, go for it, and offer help in a way that respects their skill level, knowledge and humanity. Always communicate with respect, empathy and compassion.

If they say, “no,” let them go on their own a little while longer and offer them your support if they would like it any time as they move forward.

If performance continues to struggle and they have not yet asked for help, then you may need to be more direct and assertive letting them know that the help is no longer optional if they want to continue to be a team member.

I hope that effectively answers your question. Thank you for sharing it as I know others out there have probably been thinking about that, too.

’til next time, make it a great week!