A few weeks ago, I was assembling a new desk in our studio. Mostly the project was going smoothly, but one pesky bolt wasn’t fitting onto a brace for the desk.
The wrench I had clearly wasn’t working well for the job, but I figured I could just force it a bit instead of having to go all the way back to the garage to get the wrench I really needed.
I pressed on with the wrongly-sized wrench, only to have it slip out of my fingers and slice into my thumb. This resulted in me having to stop the work, address the minor bleeding, get a bandage, and then eventually make it back down to the garage to get the wrench I should have gotten in the first place.
This of course took way longer than if I had just started with the right tool. The entire rest of the assembly also slowed down since I had to be mindful that I didn’t lose the bandage and risk dropping blood on the furniture.
You’ve done something like this too, right? Sometimes it’s just easier to use tool you already grabbed than to stop and get the tool you need.
I fear this happens sometimes with leaders when it comes to the skill of coaching.
All of us have heard about the importance of having good coaching skills. It’s an essential tool in the toolbox of every leader — one of the most important ones, in fact. It’s useful, powerful, even inspiring, when used well.
But it is only one tool and, just like an actual toolbox, one tool isn’t enough for every situation.
Feedback for leaders is also important. So is training. In some situations, being directive is right. Facilitation is essential when trying to surface new ideas. And of course, so is accountability when expectations aren’t met.
If you go onto our website and look in the episode library, there are more than 60 categories of skills databased from podcasts episodes I’ve aired over the years. One of those categories is called “Coaching Skills” but there are a lot of others.
In fact, of the over 500 episodes I’ve aired on the Coaching for Leaders podcast, only about two dozen directly address what I would call coaching skills.
Don’t get me wrong…nobody is happier to see a lot more leaders appreciating and using coaching skills in recent years.
Yet, I fear that I and others have unintentionally sent the message that coaching skills are critical, while other skills are perhaps secondary. After all, I’m the one who named a podcast “Coaching for Leaders”.
But the podcast could be as easily be called Training for Leaders, or Management or Leaders, or Conversations for Leaders, or probably a dozen other words that would reflect the full repertoire of skills that most leaders need.
This is one of the reasons I’ve always appreciated the Situational Leadership model created by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. They challenge leaders to first assess the situation and then respond with the appropriate behavior.
Just like you would do if tackling a house project. Determine what’s needed first. Grab the correct tool, second.
If your coaching skills aren’t getting people where they need to go, it could be that improving your skills might help. But it also could be that you’re using the wrong tool for the situation.
I hope that you’ll use coaching a lot as a leader. It’s a wonderful place to begin from — and it will serve you and others well throughout your career. And, I give you permission to not be so coach-like, if the situation dictates something else.