Quite simple, the answer is no you cannot coach your subordinates. Why, you may ask?
A coaching relationship is seen as an equal partnership between two people and unfortunately whichever way you dress it up, you and your subordinates within the business environment are not equal parties. You are their boss.
It is therefore recommended that you take on a mentorship role, which is the type of relationship which works extremely well in this type of situation as the mentor’s job is to impart their knowledge, experience and learnings onto a less experienced mentee. The relationship is equal in respect, but not in status.
If however you want your team members to engage in a positive and impactful coaching experience then you must accept that you are not the right person for the job and that a colleague from another department or an external coach should be earmarked for the job.
You may have the most genuine of intentions to enter the coaching relationship completely open, unbiased and non-judgemental. You may even verbalise this genuine intent to your subordinates. However, a positive, trusting coaching relationship starts with the coachee feeling completely free to talk about their own experiences, feelings and goals and unfortunately doing this with their boss is not a winning formula. In their eyes, you are not an equal or an unbiased objective voice. They see you as the boss, the person who completes their performance appraisal. The person who they seek advice and guidance from during challenging times. You may merge some coaching techniques into your management style, which is extremely commendable, but it doesn’t make for a coaching relationship.
You may disagree, so for arguments sake let’s turn this scenario around and answer these questions.
1) How comfortable would you feel if you were being coached by your boss?
2) How truthful would you be about how you felt if you were coached by your boss?
3) How would you feel about your relationship with your boss outside of the coaching relationship? Would you be able to draw a clear line between boss and coach?
4) How truthful would you be in the coaching session, if your boss was your coach?
Remember, coaching is not about what you or the business wants for the coachee or what you think is best for the coachee. It’s about them and what they want. Doing what’s best for them, may just include the option of bringing in an external coach.
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