In ours trainnings we don’t just teach coaching skills; we teach coaching principles. To me, principles are like the wisdom behind the skills. They complement and enhance the competencies, and bring them to life.
For people who’ve been coaching a while, they offer more insight into what’s happening beneath the surface when you’re coaching. For newer coaches and coaches-in-training, learning the principles prepares you for what tends to show up when you’re applying your coaching skills.
These principles seem to be somewhat universal, which was proven to me recently when I attended a class in our Brazil training. The students were talking – in Portuguese – about the challenges they had in trying to fix the person they were coaching, or solve their issue.
The discussion turned to this principle: Coach the person, not the problem. It was interesting to me how this idea spans across cultures. And it doesn’t just affect new coaches; this is something I still work on myself. It’s very easy to fall into the role of problem solver when really coaching is all about how to develop the person we are coaching.
One of the reasons we default to this approach is because clients often ask us to solve their problems. They may think or even say, “isn’t that what I’m paying you for?” This is especially true if they’ve never worked with a coach before.
Of course, the problem with this method is that if we’ve solved their problem, we haven’t empowered the person. They’re going to need us again. If we develop the person, then we often find the problem either goes away and there’s no problem, or it quickly gets resolved.
After I’ve been coaching someone for a couple of months, they stop wanting me to solve their problems for them. They know they’ve got this. They may want some hints or some help, but ultimately, they want to be developed.
Another reason it’s tricky for coaches to not fall into this trap is that most of us come from a background of people wanting us to solve things – that’s what a leader does. Coaching introduces a whole new leadership dynamic.
By using the simple phrase, “coach the person, not the problem,” we can remember this principle before we get too far down the road of trying to fix our clients or solve their problems. We can keep these guiding bits of wisdom close at hand.I