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7 Pitfalls to Avoid in Coaching, With Dean Jones

7 Pitfalls to Avoid in Coaching, With Dean Jones

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 5, Episode 9
  • Listen as Dean Jones expands on pitfalls you need to avoid in ongoing coaching-client relationships, including avoiding arguments with your clients' talent.

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world.

This is the first of a two-part series on the practice of coaching for people who have an ongoing relationship with clients.

Intro: How to be a great coach

  • Understand your own talents and strengths
  • Be able to develop your own self-awareness, biases, blind spots
  • Be someone who loves strengths, is inquisitive, and works on their own development
  • You are in the mode of your development
  • Ways to be more effective and pitfalls to avoid
  • How you manage your relationship with clients over time

7 pitfalls to avoid in ongoing coaching-client relationships

  1. Don't blame the client.
    Sometimes clients don't make progress; sometimes people engage in self-defeating behaviors or just don't have the level of self-awareness yet.
  • Clients should take Responsibility for their development but the client shouldn't feel they are being judged and being blamed by their coach.
  • Needs to be a great/safe place; you make them feel comfortable; don't judge
  • Client needs to know that you are for them; when things aren't working, acknowledge what is and is not working.
  • Maintain professional deportment
  • You are there for a purpose, to accomplish something for them
  • You are there for a particular purpose; if you get off that purpose you get off-course from what you are there to do
  • But you also need to own your own humanity
  • Do work that will result in them being more effective
  • Talk about previous conversations where these behaviors have been previously discussed, acknowledge that, and tell the truth about it.
  • Be okay with what's happening or not happening to create the freedom to explore. Be fine with your clients' limitations and behaviors.
  • If you get discouraged or frustrated, your client will be; keep that safe space
  • Embrace their humanity, then get to work on it
  1. Don't become the client's manager.
    When you set actions for follow-up, it's great to be an accountability partner on the previously agreed upon actions. But don't manage clients' to-do list. Management is different from coaching. The development of clients' self-management and self-sufficiency is essential for the coaching relationship to succeed. Support their accomplishments, address the shortcomings, and help them set up their own self-accountability structures. Help them identify their own systems and structures that can help them manage their goals and generate their own accomplishments outside of the coaching sessions.
  • You create actions to take and clarity around them
  • Great to be accountability partner; you said this, how did it go; take a tally or audit
  • But don't fall into habit of being their manager; don't do it for them; don't set up a system for them
  • From Alicia -- "deepening the learning and forwarding the action"
  • Get up under your client so they have a degree of self-management
  • Help them generate their work/development themselves
  • Help people become a self-cleaning oven
  • Don't become the structure by default
  • Support their accomplishments; account for what they did and didn't do
  • Manage integrity of the relationship
  • Help client generate their own accountability/accomplishments
  • Help them set up their own systems and structures
  1. Don't turn your client into your coach by asking how you are doing as their coach.
    This especially happens for newer coaches. It might signal a level of self-doubt or insecurity about your coaching abilities, which can in turn undermine the value of the work you are doing together. You should be able to gauge how it is going based on their accomplishments and reflections. Even when the client questions the value of the coaching experience, you (as the coach) can articulate the value and the progress you are seeing in the sessions.
  • Not talking about evaluations
  • Asking things like how am I doing? Is this working for you?
  • This could sound like insecurity to the client and undermine your value
  • Listen to what value the client is deriving
  • Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model -- framework for assessing learning and development. There are four levels.
  • Could be condescending to do pre- and post-tests; ask about if it was relevant, practical; honor the knowledge you have and build on it

What is your opinion about coaching session evaluation forms?

Donald Kirkpatrick levels is one of the fundamental frameworks for assessing learning and development. Measuring learning and development in four levels (reaction, learning, behavior, and results). Typically coaching session evaluations capture level 1 reactions. Pre- and post-tests measure level 2 learning. Beware -- that can be condescending to certain clients when you capture direct learning (i.e., do you know what "talent" is?). Level 3 indicates behavior change which can be measured by Gallup Q12 or 360 feedback. Level 4 (results) is often measured by performance data. Book recommendation: Training on Trial.

An informal way to conduct a 360-degree evaluation without a formalized or purchased system:

  • Have your client name all the people they report to (supervisors), the people who report to them (their supervisees), and their colleagues/peers.
  • How do you think you are doing in terms of your working relationship with each of these people?
  • What do you think these people would say about you?
  • Where is the opportunity to increase the value of your relationship with that person.
  • Where there is particular friction in a relationship (as stated by your client in response to the previous questions), have your client interview that person to get some feedback.
  1. Don't take away your client's choice.
  • They are choosing to be coached
  • Always honor your client's choice
  • Give advice, be directive, but honor that they are always going to choose
  • Letting them choose is very important
  • Be deferential about it; also defer to -- is this where you want to go? Work you want to do?
  • The person is the driver, the leader in the work they want to do
  1. Don't get into an argument with someone's talent.
    Any time you do this you will lose. Your clients will operate 100% in the way that is driven by their talents. You may want someone to be more inclusive, empathetic, or future-oriented. Do not argue with your client's preferred ways of thinking and behaving. Ensure they have self-awareness of their talents and how they apply those talents. Usually, if you're in an argument with someone's talent, it's because they have applied their talent in unproductive ways or in an environment/situation that is not matched well to their talent. Sometimes changing the landscape is the most appropriate action for a client -- the role, type of project, or the work they are doing.
  • Help their self-awareness; it can be a great moderator or throttle on behavior
  • If self-awareness doesn't work, you many need a change in landscape
  • Help them own, honor, accept, appreciate talent and apply them productively
  1. Being empathetic is not the same thing as commiserating.
    Everyone wants their coach to understand their world and their perspective. When does your level of Empathy move into commiserating. Even if things are going poorly for your client, try to stand outside of that to manage their talents and situations. Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation but keep the professional distance to help them manage the situation. As a coach, do not get tangled up in their point of view.
  • Be compassionate and empathetic
  • Acknowledge and honor that they are dealing with a difficult person
  • But you need to keep that personal distant
  • Line between coaching and therapy
  • Line between coaching and consulting
  1. Don't forget about performance.
    People are hiring coaches to be more effective. In the early stage you may work more on developing self-awareness and navigating situations. That needs to be translated into the impact on their daily work and how they use their strengths to improve their abilities and effectiveness. Clients are looking for coaches to help them direct their talents, apply new knowledge, and seek out situations to practice turning their talents into strengths. As coaches, we should ensure we are focusing on the things that will help our clients be more effective and improve their performance. "Ultimately, the value of coaching is derived from their effectiveness in the areas that matter most to them."
  • At the end of the day, am I being more effective?
  • What is the impact that I'm having?
  • How do I add knowledge, develop skills?
  • How am I investing in a talent to increase effectiveness and make myself better?
  • These are the results commensurate with what you want to work towards
  • Start with the end in mind … the end is performance excellence

Notes from the Q&A:

  • Don't talk too much
  • Remember if the client says it, it's worth twice (or more) what it would be if you said it
  • Great coaches ask great questions
  • Use questions strategically; a way to shape the direction; some are direct, some indirect
  • Think about what questions you should be asking
  • Be willing to shape the conversation by the questions you ask
  • Great, searing questions that get right to the heart of things
  • Know what to listen for in the answer to your questions; keeps you listening
  • Some coaches ask what they should be writing down; write down what people are saying as verbatim as possible
  • In the session, write down what the client is saying; write your notes and insights afterwards
  • You can see/hear their worldview; then when you're debriefing write down what you want that person to work on
  • You want to use the client's own words later on; reflect them back to the client
  • First level of coaching is helping people understand their own talent profile and start to be able to Focus on their talents and develop them
  • The next level is helping people apply their talents meaningfully; that's where domain experience is helpful, you understand the role and environment; you're not just passionate about talents and strengths, but adding your own knowledge and skills

Dean Jones' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches Cheryl Pace and Rachel Carpenter contributed to this post.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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