Why telling people what to do is NOT coaching

I have been running training courses on coaching for the last 25 years now and it still amazes me that telling people what to do is seen as coaching. Telling their staff what to do and solving their problems seems to be a management practise that all managers learn and use consistently. From my point of view, all this seems to do is create more problems as staff keep asking questions on how to do things, instead of thinking for themselves.

I know that most managers are time poor, so it is a lot easier to solve the problem there and then on the spot. However this only creates compliance, your people will do what they are told to do. It does very little to empower people to think for themselves and I believe most people will feel motivated if they are asked to bring their expertise to a situation, instead of just being told what to do.

There are a number of huge benefits from “flipping it” and getting your team to come up with the answers, as follows:

  • They have to think before they answer your question
  • You know they know the answer – if they don’t it’s not their fault, you can then tell them
  • They are more likely to remember the answer – people remember 70% of what they say yet only 20% of what they are told
  • People own what they help to create. By coming up with the answer themselves there is so much more buy in.

I also think that managers believe their role is to be a problem solver and they have to know all the answers. Their staff may think poorly of them if they don’t know. Most high performing business leaders confess to not knowing all the answers yet they know what questions to ask and that’s the big difference.

So how do you learn to “flip it?” Working with a client late last year and the term “flip it” was created by one of the managers who simply said – “I need to flip the conversation so they come up with the answer.” It’s very challenging as I mentioned because most managers have been providing the answer for years, so it’s a hard habit to break. Here’s some thoughts:

  • Being aware is the first step, it you are not aware you are providing answers all or most of the time you’ll never change – have someone listen in to your conversations and ask them to focus on who does most of the talking and providing the answers.
  • Spend more time listening (and not trying to solve the problem straight away).
  • Use questions such as – “What do you think would be a good way?” “I’ve got an idea but I’d like to hear what you think first.” “Why do you think it’s important to …….?” “Next time how could you do it differently?”
  • Always think – “How can I flip the conversation, so they come up with the answers?”

Asking questions is such a powerful, empowering and motivating technique that when mastered provides you with more quality time to focus on bigger issues than just constantly problem solving. It’s also a key skill of being a great coach that brings the best out of their people.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.