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Take a long hard look at the way you currently coach. As an overworked manager and most of us are we find it very easy and tempting to deal with performance problems of our staff at symptom level rather than root cause. We all get a buzz out of taking decisive action and find it hard sometimes to slow down enough to find out why something has gone wrong. so if we take a long hard look at the way we currently coach, most of us are itching to get to the " how to do it " part and that is usually where it goes wrong.

Let them give you their story and experience in a "Narrative rich discussion"

Narrative-rich discussions are those in which you basically get someone to tell you the whole story of the event. If they give you the little details, the nuances, their feelings (all the story’s local colour), you can learn so much more about what’s happening than you can with a ‘just give me the hard facts’ approach.

Feedback is about observations and not judgments and criticism, our questions during the coaching session or while giving feedback should provide a framework for the other party to critique their own work.

For example : suppose you are giving one of your subordinates feedback about their report writing skills, you should ask questions like:

- What are we hoping to achieve with this report ?
- What are the key questions the people who are reading it will want answers to ?
- Does it take people through our line of thought so they can see not just what we want but where we're coming form ?

Different people learn in different ways.

Every different team member has a different way of learning :

-  Some people trust their instincts and just shrug it off when things go wrong. They’re bored by routine, repetitive tasks and thrive on drama, excitement and anything new. They take an active part in meetings, often contributing more than their share. They’re open-minded about new experiences and tend to act first and think second.



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 These people are event-oriented and learn best from new experiences and anything with a hands-on approach.

- Some people are life’s observers, standing back and watching rather than getting stuck in. They do less than their share of talking in meetings and often make great facilitators. They don’t like to be rushed, preferring to get all the facts together before making a decision.

These people are review-oriented and learn best when they have time and space to think things through.

-  Some people need something new to make sense to them before they can do it. They are analytical and detached, and can get irritated with people who lark about. They feel uncomfortable about going with their instinct, so they like structure and format.

These people are insight-oriented and learn best when they have an input of theory that has a sound basis in logic.

- Some people are life’s questioners, needing to know why as much as how. They delve into things rather than accept them as they are. They don’t take anything for granted, and they think it’s only natural that people should ask questions when they don’t understand.

These people are challenge oriented and  learn best when they can ask questions and are not hurried along to a timetable.

- Some people love putting ideas into practice and are always looking for ways to make things work more effectively. They are practical, down-to-earth people, and they probably subscribe to the idea that those who can do, do and those who can’t, teach.

These people are application-oriented and learn best when there is an obvious link between what they are learning and their job.

Which ones sound like your team members  and are you putting an effort to find out which type of  preferred learning style your team members are ? are you coaching them accordingly  ?

See also: Learning styles Click here for the VAK learning styles questionnaire

Different beliefs lead to different behaviours

Your team member will have their own perspective – on their performance and on you. How is your coaching affected by what you believe your team member thinks of you?

Different team members have different beliefs, which lead to different behaviours, which lead to different results, and they bring their beliefs, characteristics, experience, values and  pre-programmes to the coaching dynamic. When you coach,you’re entering potentially treacherous waters because you’re working to raise someone’s self-awareness, which might lead them to have to challenge their perception of themselves, the image they believe they portray, or an important coping strategy.

Your own personal judgments about the person that must be suspended

You can’t like everyone in your team. What impact does liking or disliking a team member have on your relationship with them?

We already know that your perspective changes depending on which team member you are looking at. It’s a lot easier to coach someone you like and feel at ease with. Much as we may wish it was different, we can’t like everyone we work with. Are you the kind of manager who cuts people you like a little more slack? Or are you the kind of manager who is tougher on the people you like and easier on people you don’t like, to compensate? Either way, you’re responding like a human being to another human being. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but be aware of how it impacts on the coaching dynamic.


Adapted from a great book on coaching " Real coaching and feedback " By Karen Smart . This book is a highly recommended read on the topic of coaching and feedback.

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