managers coaching their people bruises their ego

“Coaching – which can help managers talk with subordinates about their developmental needs – absolutely affects the relationship positively.” – Time Magazine

Why is it some managers are fearless in the face of coaching their people and others panic, paralyzed in the fear of having to develop their employees and messing up the experience while escaping without bruising their own ego.


The word alone has been heralded throughout organizations as the holy grail or answer to any and all people problems within companies. This couldn’t be further from the truth and many leaders (from some of the best companies around the world) already know this but yet the concept of coaching is still readily confusing to many. There are to date, a variety of forms and definitions of coaching styles and philosophies.

Specifically speaking, the confusion typically lies in some of the basic and critical questions (many time overlooked or) unknown to the manager:

  • What is coaching?
  • Why can’t I just tell them what to do?
  • How do I effectively coach?
  • What if they don’t take the coaching?
  • When should we be coaching?
  • Who should we “not” be coaching?
  • How do we effectively measure the coaching engagement?

All of these questions are quite valid and should be addressed before any coaching engagement commences. Like I said, some of the more progressive companies (and their cultures) already recognize the importance of coaching and are addressing these questions to better support their managers but we are still far from a coaching culture throughout the many industries that exist today.

In reality, that’s okay.

I am not here to stand on a soap-box and preach coaching to every company. I am however, committed to support the hundreds of thousands of managers who are faced with the daily challenges of coaching their people and may not feel comfortable letting their boss know.

Here are 6 reasons why many managers are resistant to coach their people:

  • Lack of Support (from Org, Manager, Employee): Not having your manager’s support is one thing but lacking your companies is entirely another challenge. When coaching is not readily practiced within your organization it makes the act of formal coaching difficult. Assuming you are being asked to perform actual coaching and not directing or “telling” your people what to do or not to do. When there is a weak commitment to having a coaching culture (in some defined fashion within the organization) the ones who suffer are the managers responsible to develop their teams when asked to coach. There are of course many excellent alternatives to coaching and as I expressed above, coaching is far from the only answer or option.
  • Lack the Belief / Mindset: Many times it’s the initial mindset that thwarts all good intentions and leads to a path of most resistance. Common internal thinking from the manager such as: I don’t have all the answers…It’s gonna take too long…I have too many direct reports or I’m not going to see the results in my effort, so why bother. Here is great (super short) HBR article worth reading titled: Overcoming The Toughest Coaching Challenges.
  • Lack of Commitment (from their employee): Granted this is a widely generalized statement which of course lends itself to myriad of reasons “why” this happens but for the sake of brevity, I would assert there is a weak set up of the engagement itself – leaving the other person defensive and adding both uncertainty and confusion to the mix.
  • Lack of Skills: Asking someone to do something without enabling them the skills, to develop sed skills is a recipe for disaster. Luckily we live in a world where there are online courses, excellent (and reputable) coaching organizations that offer training, coaching and external support. I personally recommend taking an in-person certified and accredited coaching program if you are serious about developing this specific set of skills. Ensuring you are set up for success begins with arming yourself with the right type of coaching skills needed to both develop your team and aligned with you company and it’s performance management style. There are many types of effective styles of coaching and understanding what’s the most appropriate for your company and it’s culture is critical to it’s implementation and lifespan. You wouldn’t simply take something off the
  • Lack of Structure: Not having SMART Goals is dumb. Okay, well not dumb but definitely not productive and surely not measurable. If the manager doesn’t feel confident in knowing how the engagement process itself will work, they will struggle in finding the right time and cadence to work with their people. A clear process should be defined upfront.
  • Lack of Time: Oh yes, the ol’ “I don’t have enough time” which I will forgo debunking this statement and point you to hundreds of articles on this topic including (12 Morning Rituals Successful People Add To Their Daily Routine & 25 Ways To Get More Done In The Workplace). Sure coaching requires time for both the prep, exchange and follow up but that doesn’t mean it has to be an all day affair. Understood, managers are buried with meetings, emails and more meetings but ultimately this boils down less to your lack of time and I would assert more to your prioritization and what you’ve set up for success moving forward. If your company doesn’t embrace coaching within it’s culture than yes, you will fight to find time to make this happen. Check out this CBS News article on Excuses Managers Give For Not Coaching.

“A coach is someone who can give correction without resentment” – John Wooden

Final thoughts:

Coaching is not easy, in fact it’s quite challenging but it’s also an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience. Oh, and fun – yes, fun. Coaching doesn’t have to be a word whispered quietly for fear of it’s label. Sure, there is proactive and reactive coaching but when done executed effectively, a positive outcome is possible. Coaching takes place outside the unknown and unexpected and that’s exactly what’s possible when we put aside our fear of failure and embrace developing others (and ourselves in the process).

“All personal breakthroughs begin with a change in beliefs.” – Tony Robbins

The floor is yours: How does coaching work within your organization?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership, Joshua /

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