Research Paper By Theresa Custer
(Leadership and Business Coaching, UNITED STATES)
I have been in the business of managing people for most of my working life, some twenty plus years. A little more than two years ago, I completely changed careers and transitioned to a new role as a leadership coach. I coach leaders at all levels and across a multitude of industries to reinforce the skills and tools they learn in a 12-month leadership training process. I thought this transition would be a slam dunk. I’ve worked with people for years and always prided myself in being a fairly good manager, establishing relationships and motivating people, so why not coach? After coaching for two years now and participating in the ICA studies, I’ve had a complete epiphany and turnaround in my behavior and way of thinking. I’ve realized that I spent years of telling and not teaching. Although I built relationships with my teams through inspiration, I was not building them to be all that they could be. I was not holding them accountable, nor was I holding myself accountable to them. The entire coaching element was missing. And, worse, this thought never even crossed my mind when I was leading people.
Anyone can talk through a set of prepared notes – some better than others. But to teach is to engage the hearts and minds of learners in such a way that they are changed. Teaching is more than talking (“giving information”). Learning is more than hearing (“getting information”).
We spend time telling people information, feeding them facts and instructions, and expecting them to retain it as if they are storing it in their brain to recall at a later time, precisely when they’ll need it. We tell people what they should do through our own opinions (which may have several interpretations) and then we expect them to know how they would react or handle a situation later. With all this telling and talking, do we ever stop to listen and determine if the person we are teaching or training really understands what we are trying to communicate? We transfer the responsibility of learning on them and wipe our hands clean as if our job is done.
This concept applies to anyone and everyone. We teach each other, parents teach their children, teachers teach their students, bosses teach their employees, and so on. What if we stopped telling and started coaching? What would happen?
I coached a manager in a manufacturing company who struggled with his employees having attendance issues. Each of the employees received a point if they came in late to work or called in sick. Company procedures required the boss to give the employees a written warning after they receive so many points. Excessive points were cause for termination.
I asked the manager what he discussed with the employees when they were counseled on their attendance issues. He said, “It is basically cut and dry. I give them the written warning and let them know that if they come in late again they will lose their job.” I asked him if the employees knew what to do to move forward after receiving the counseling. “Of course, they do. They either come in on time or they lose their jobs. That is pretty clear,” he shared. But, is it clear?