In last weeks blog post we defined coaching as helping others to advance to higher levels of emotional maturity.

High levels of emotional maturity are demonstrated by:

  • Clarity of thoughts, feelings, priorities, and factors contributing to a problem.
  • Responsibility for the part one plays in a problem and its solution.
  • Courage to make an unpopular decision or take an uncomfortable action

Coaching can occur in formal coaching sessions, during regular one-on-one project updates or on the fly. A frequent coaching opportunity arises when the coachee comes to the leader with a problem. If the leader rushes in to help the coachee solve the problem they become part of the problem.

The focus of the leader (coach) is to help the coachee develop greater clarity, responsibility and courage “in relation to” the problem.

This can be a difficult transition for a leader to make. Leaders advance in their careers by having answers and solving problems. But in order to promote maturity in their organization leaders must resist the urge to problem solve and become more coach-like.

The Leader is 1/2 the Problem

Over time a reciprocal pattern of functioning can develop between the leader and follower. The leader chronically over functions for an under-functioning employee. Over functioning is doing for another person what they are capable of doing themselves, including thinking and problem-solving.

The leader may view “the problem” as being the under-functioning employee and not see the part they are playing in the relationship dynamic. It is easier for the leader to make accommodations that make it possible to live with the under-functioning employee than it is to address the underlying relationship process that perpetuates the under-functioning in the first place. It is often the over-functioning leader that drives the relationship process by rushing to solve problems to relieve the anxiety generated by the under-functioning. The leader can use coaching to develop greater Responsibility in the coachee.

The leader is ultimately responsible for the performance of their team. At times the leader may need to be directive or collaborative in their approach and solve problems. Even at times where it makes sense for the leader to engage in problem-solving, they have an opportunity to be more coach-like in the process.  I like the thinking of Michael Stanier author of The Coaching Habit:

“Can you slow down the advice giving and stay curious just a little bit longer”

By slowing down on giving advice and staying curious for longer the leader is promoting greater thinking in the coachee. The leader also develops a deeper appreciation for the problem which leads to more effective solutions.


The next 5 Blog Posts will explore the core skills required to effectively coach.

  1. Building Strong Connections
  2. Listening
  3. Asking “Curious & Challenging” Questions
  4. Taking Clear I-positions
  5. Managing Relationship Triangles

This is an example of over-functioning:

*REMINDER*  Early bird rates for the upcoming “Coaching Skills for Professional Leaders” Seminar end February 1. Make sure you don’t forget to sign up. Click here now.