Knowing When it is Time to Let Go

Coaching is not just for professional coaches. Although a profession of coaching has sprung up, coaching techniques are used in many other disciplines, including teaching, therapy, counselling and managing. Yes, managing. Increasingly, my clients are leaders and managers hoping to take coaching techniques and incorporate them into their management and leadership styles through a “coach approach” to help their teams and employees become more effective.

When I teach managers how to use coaching techniques and tools, I ask them why they would want to do this — what are their goals? Notable goals include:

  • Building capacity in individual employees
  • Helping teams be more productive
  • Remedial coaching to help under-performers get up to speed
  • Reducing the reliance of employees on managers, enabling managers to get more work done
  • Working with problematic relationships, which might include influencing peers or employees where the manager has no direct power due to an indirect reporting relationship
  • Managing up: Coaching one’s own boss (Note – this is both tricky and entirely possible to do.)

However, the skill set needed for effective management isn’t necessarily the same skill set needed for coaching. Managers are strong at telling, selling, directing, monitoring, reviewing and other skills aimed at ensuring that work gets done. Managers are typically not strong at asking open-ended, inquiry-based questions; they are typically not strong at letting go of control; they are typically not strong at letting employees, especially under performers, have autonomy and creativity around the execution of tasks. There are important times when a manager must manage, and it’s equally important that managers use their experience and wisdom to determine when to let go and take more of a “coach approach”. Coaching is focused on the employee, and the manager has to learn to let go.

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