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I get by with a little help from my… Coach!

Illustration of a woman in a wheelchair and other men and women standing

There are times when we all need a little help

By Aidan Matthews, Leadership Programme Manager and Coach

We are not sure what direction to go in, what qualification to choose or how to feel more confident about something. These situations can be a major source of anxiety. It can be a blessing to be able to turn to someone and get some advice.

If you are one of those people who likes to give advice, it can be very satisfying to see how you have helped someone make breakthroughs in their careers and lives.

However, there is a danger to be aware of… helping people too much can teach them to be helpless. In organisations this starts to show in teams where managers are so busy that they just start telling people what to do to save time and stress, for themselves and their team members.

The long-term effect unfortunately is a team of individuals who are unable to think of their own solutions when faced with problems.

The ideal team member

Ask any manager in the world what behaviour and attitudes they want from their ideal team member (I’ve experienced this in several countries) and the response is universal: they want people who will show initiative, be proactive and take responsibility. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The thing is, an over-advising manager who is constantly telling people what to do, is in danger of creating the opposite behaviours and attitudes they are wishing for.

That is why we have a saying for all managers to keep in the forefront of their minds:

Ask! Don’t tell.

When we ask the right question of someone, they are called to do some very important things:

  1. they must think
  2. they must come up with an answer, and
  3. communicate that answer.

There is a key psychological principle here. People believe their own data. When we believe our own data, we are far more likely to own that data and do something with it.

That’s why it is so important for managers to know how to ask good quality questions in the right way at the right time. And this is why coaching as a cultural practise is so crucial for organisations.

So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is looking for a solution, think ‘should I tell them the answer, or should I ask them what they think the answer might be?’

You can also join us on How to be an effective coach. Learn some of the essentials of great coaching conversations.