If you’re unsure of the context of pitfall #15, or if you would like to review this material generally, go to the end of this article and read, “Putting the 17 pitfalls in context.”
The Siren Song of solution
In Greek mythology, a siren song refers to an appeal that is hard to resist, but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad result.
The Siren, by John William Waterhouse
Coaching the siren song (or solution)
My son Alexander (age 15), wants to be a writer. If you ask him how he will become a writer, he will tell you that he will go to a good college and that that will make him a writer. While this probably makes a great deal of sense to many people, it is unlikely to make Alexander a good writer.
Do you know any college graduates who aren’t good writers?
I can coach Alexander about getting into college, paying for college, getting good enough grades to go to college, and so on. None of that will make him a better writer.
Alexander knows this drill
He hates it, but he knows it is true. According to his father (me), the only way to become a better writer is to…write. Get into action by picking up a pen and paper, organizing one’s thoughts and writing.
Action as opposed to “solution”
Coaching for an action, a step that an individual can take with a specific date for completion or accomplishment, is the best way we know of to move from the “what’s so” of today, to what is wanted tomorrow. By comparison, a solution is simply spinning in place.
Solution vs. action
A solution is the description of a possible end result. You can talk about it all day and not materially change your position, nor make tangible progress from the “what’s so” of today, to the “what’s wanted” in the future.
Like the siren song
The term, “solution,” feels good, but disappoints when it comes to results. An action, by contrast, can feel messy, and it requires a commitment to choosing an action by a specific date and time. Action isn’t always as psychologically satisfying in the moment, but sequential actions almost always yield better results. Actions rarely disappoint, in the long run.
Effective coaching and ear plugs
If you wish to avoid this seductive pitfall of coaching, you will need to put in your ear plugs when the conversation turns to solutions, and gently turn it towards action and commitment.
Putting the 17 pitfalls in context
Performance leadership is the combination of leadership and coaching. Leadership establishes what we call an opportunity gap between today, and what we desire at some time in the future. Coaching is the art of getting, and keeping, people in innovative action to fill that gap.
Easy to say, and often wickedly hard to do, in real life.
Avoiding the 17 pitfalls
Coaching, in our opinion, is a key skill in achieving performance in any organization. Developing the skills to avoid the 17 pitfalls of coaching is a vital ability for leaders in high-performance organizations.
The 17 Pitfalls of Coaching
1. Not establishing what’s so.
2. Not asking “What’s possibly missing.”
3. Not operating out of the coachee’s occurring.
4. Attempting to coach into no demand.
5. Giving advice versus asking questions.
6. Making the session’s purpose to advance the coach versus the coachee.
7. Not understanding what makes coachees perform.
8. Not being in dialogue.
9. Not using generative language.
10. Not asking the “Do you think you can?” question.
11. Not asking “What does that make possible?”
12. Not being present.
13. Not using the conversation wheel.
14. Coaching the story.
15. Drifting into solution instead of focusing on action.
16. Getting lost in knowledge instead of action.
17. Not helping the coachee gain distinctions.