Communication in business can be a very tricky thing. We are constantly inundated with messages in one form or another. From emails and face-to-face meetings to video conferences and telephone calls, we are always working to communicate something. When I train coaches, I often hear issues that relate to the client not feeling listened too. Sometimes the communication is not received with the intent in which it was delivered, while other times, they were just inappropriately delivered.
Working with coaches on listening skills is an important part of what I do as a coach trainer, training both coaches and leaders in coaching skills. In a leader as coach role, it is important for us to be cognizant of the how we are communicating with our team. With that in mind, I would like to spend some time discussing the most common ways that we create roadblocks in coaching based on how we are communicating with others.
As coaches, we are often asked to provide solutions to our client’s problems. And, as any leader can attest, they are also required to do the same. While offering practical advice is an important part of both coaching and leading employees, the following techniques do not offer optimal end results with regard to clear communication and are often common traps that we, as humans, can fall into.
- Commanding – In this scenario, input from others is not sought when developing an appropriate solution. Rather, the coach prefers to do all the talking and boldly gives their opinion. This type of communication is seen as authoritative and not open to an interactive discussion. It is important to point out that the International Coaching Federation’s model of coaching outlines that the client (not the coach) should talk 70-80% of the time. This gives the client, plenty of time to express, clarify for themselves and support the design of session outcomes .
- Warning – This is another authoritarian style of leadership that is basically taking on the role of a “parent,” rather than a colleague. It tells team members, “don’t let this happen again, OR ELSE…”
- Moralizing – While it is important to be an empathetic leader, it is also crucial to offer helpful advice that does not enable bad habits. The “Morailizer” uses a “don’t be so hard on yourself,” approach. It is good to offer support, but it is also important to give constructive feedback that will help employees grow.
- Lecturing – No one likes to be talked at. Lecturing is generally viewed as stuffy and overbearing. It puts the coach in a position of power over the coachee – asserting an “I know more than you,” tone. Generally, a long drawn-out lecture causes people to tune-out or shut-down.
- Advising – One of the most powerful approaches to offering solutions is to be an advisor to the team member. This allows the leader as coach to give thoughts in a constructive and positive way, yet it puts the responsibility for action on the shoulder of the coachee, ie. “Why don’t you go and talk directly to the person that you are having trouble with?”
Passing judgment is seldom a useful communication tool. It is one person’s opinion rather than a fact or concrete finding. Judging is a recipe for destroying healthy communication simply because it is not grounded in solid fact or evidence. Here are a few of the judgment-based communication behaviors that sabotage leaders in their efforts to build healthy teams.
- Blaming – Blaming and finger pointing are counter-productive ways to solve problems. It makes people feel bullied and not heard, and only serves to create a chasm between the management team and employees.
- Name Calling – Have we not learned anything from Thumper in the Disney classic, Bambi? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Name-calling is immature and lacks any sort of empathy or respect for the individual.
- Analyzing – While careful and thoughtful analysis can be a positive thing, over-analyzing makes people feel as if their every move is under a microscope. And, when analyzing is one-sided (“I’m sure I was quite clear. Perhaps we should work on your listening skills.”), it can be detrimental to the relationship.
Working with an individual who is unwilling to own up to their shortcomings or those of others can be very frustrating. Not only does is show a lack of maturity, it is counterproductive to problem solving and reaching goals.
- Praising – While praising can be a positive thing, when the praise is not deserved it only serves to frustrate or even enable. Sometimes the best (and most difficult) thing a coach can do is offer honest criticism regarding a mistake rather than offering praise to spare another person’s ego.
- Reassuring – Again, reassuring can be a positive communication tool used by a coach. However, it should not be used to enable a bad habit. Sometimes we need to tell people the honest truth and ask them to reassess their behavior.
- Distracting – We have all been in sessions where people don’t want to approach the “elephant” in the room. They offer numerous distractions to make others comfortable instead of tackling the difficult subjects. Distracting is just another way of delaying the inevitable and only serves as an impediment to progress.
- Interrogating – Do you always have trouble with a certain individual? Putting them in a dark room with a light bulb over their head might not be the best way to foster open communication. Is there something else you could do to communicate with them?
Healthy communication is an important key to success as a leadership coach. For more information about how ALCN can help you remove communication barriers, please contact us!