Posted: Aug. 15, 2023, 10 a.m.
Before you start coaching, it is incredibly important to clear up some misconceptions about coaching – not only to help establish boundaries for yourself, but also to establish boundaries for your employee, so both of you can both thrive.
1. Coaching is not mentoring
Both coaching and mentoring are beneficial, and I strongly encourage everyone to embrace having both a coach and a mentor, but they are not the same thing.
Mentorship is much more personal in nature and there should be a strong connection. Mentors are usually people that are further along in their careers and can use that knowledge to support and guide someone with less experience.
For example, I can be brought in and coach somebody that I don't particularly have a strong connection to, but I wouldn't mentor somebody that I didn't feel a strong connection to. You likely will have some people that you mentor, but when you're coaching you want to be thinking about workplace, team, or organizational goals more than broader measures of personal success.
2. Coaching is not just training
Coaching is all about spotting gaps and training is the method used for closing the gaps; so training is more focused on a specific skill or set of skills. When I am doing leadership coaching I will often integrate specific training for skills like effective listening or giving better feedback. This is likely how you will integrate training into your coaching as well. Use coaching to define broad goals and training as a tool to accomplish those goals.
3. Coaching is not counseling
There is a common misunderstanding -- by employees and by some managers -- that good coaching means good counseling. No! A coach is somebody that's going to help people figure out what’s going on and guide them to breakthroughs, yes, but coaches are not psychologists or therapists.
As a coach you can apply a few therapy techniques or Behavioral Science to help somebody understand why they aren't motivated at work, or why they are not getting along with a colleague, but just like training methods, counseling techniques are only a tool you should have in your coaching toolkit.
Remember, as a manager you don’t need to be a therapist, but you should be a coach. However, if someone is allowing aspects of their personal life to overshadow what's happening at work, you can offer your team member some time off to handle personal matters or seek outside counsel.
4. Life Coaching vs Coaching.
This is somewhat related to the last misconception about therapy, but it’s important to delineate that you are not a “life coach.” Life coaches look at someone’s whole life and provide feedback.
As a good manager, you should be focusing on coaching in terms of organizational, team, and individual career success. Your job is to stay focused on coaching that person through their career, not their entire life.
Before you start coaching someone, I recommend explaining to your team what a coach does (and doesn’t do), so you start off with the same basic understanding. Recognizing what coaching means to you (and your team) ensures that you’re able to be a great coach when you need to be a great coach.