When To Avoid Coaching Employees

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

As a manager, your direct reports are your ‘clients.’ At Hone, we believe coaching is one of the best ways to foster your team’s learning and development.

We also believe in balance. Not every workplace situation is an opportunity to coach. Here are common workplace situations that require a shift in your management approach.

Don’t Coach… When the Building is On Fire

Do: Set Direction

If the building were on fire, you would jump into action to get people out of the building. Coaching your team through an escape method wouldn’t even come to mind. Asking questions like What’s the best approach for us to leave the building? Or What other escape solutions do you see here? would just waste valuable time.

Most workplace solutions aren’t as extreme as saving people from a fire. But urgent situations do arise that require your immediate direction — coaching others would take too much time. Learn how to identify the fires so you can jump in quickly without making it a habit.

For example: A PR crisis has your leadership team in a panic — and you’re the senior communications manager. The crisis needs a statement from the CEO. In calmer times, this would be a great opportunity to connect a member of your team with the CEO. Today, you should step in. Moving quickly and with a strong understanding of what needs to happen is priority.

Don’t Coach… When You’re Not Trained To

Do: Refer To a Professional Who’s Better Equipped

Emotional intelligence is crucial to successfully coach your direct reports. Life happens. Projects go awry, frustrations among team members arise, personal matters work schedules. Empathy helps you coach your team members through these challenges.

And sometimes, those challenges become more than you may be trained for. Sexual harassment, a disgruntled employee making threats, a report who continually bullies others — these situations (and others) are better left to the professionals. Learn to recognize when situations require looping in an HR professional or lawyer.

Don’t Coach… When You’re Not Invited To

Do: Ask for Permission

When you’re excited about coaching, you may want to coach everyone! Your coaching skills are expected in conversations with your direct team.

But your peers, managers, and family may not appreciate the efforts. No one wants unsolicited advice. The next time someone brings you a problem, ask How can I help? If they seem open to your coaching help, next confirm Can I ask a few questions about this? Whoever you’re speaking with, they’ll appreciate you asking first.

Don’t Coach… When Your Reports Just Need the Facts

Do: Teach

Sometimes you need to just communicate the facts to your team, like when:

    • New hires are onboarding
    • Company changes are taking place
    • Internal hires or organizational changes happen
    • A new product, tool, or working method is integrated
  • Company policies change

This is not the time to take a step back and ask guiding questions of your team. Focus on clearly communicating the facts, training, and setting direction. You can shift to coaching once your team is aligned.

Don’t Coach… When You Don’t Have Time

Do: Make the Time

Good coaching involves asking great questions. It also involves active listening.

If you pose a question when you don’t have time to listen, then you’re sabotaging the process. Make the time for coaching conversations. Get out of the office with your direct report. Schedule in weekly 1:1 time. And when you don’t have time, make sure to follow up once you’re ready to coach.

Try It Out: When Not to Coach

Now, reflect on your three most recent work conversations with your direct reports. Which would have been more effective with coaching? Which were not appropriate for coaching?