RSS When Does Coaching Resemble Parenting?

I had a terrific conversation with a team member recently, who wanted some advice regarding how not to take personally the coaching they receive from their supervisor. While I didn’t get to the heart of the matter initially, the employee eventually shared with me that they often find themselves taking their superior’s coaching personally. 

This discussion allowed me an opportunity to question why this reaction might be a common occurrence for them, and further, illustrated in my mind the difference between coaching and parenting. As I see it, when an employee receives feedback that is intended to change performance or behavior, they usually perceive this feedback as either being coached or as being parented by their supervisor. To me, effective coaching  results in a more knowledgeable and motivated employee, while other forms of feedback may cause an employee to feel as if they have been spanked, like a young child. On a personal note, I don’t condone spanking, but recognize the benefits after receiving a few from my parents when I was growing up!

It’s not uncommon for an employee to feel disappointed in themselves after a coaching session with a supervisor, but this feeling should be related to the understanding that they have let their coworkers or their clients down by not performing their job as expected. Effective coaching educates an employee as to how to perform their job better, and does not dampen their enthusiasm to improve. 

This is where I see a big difference between coaching and parenting. Coaching on the job should be about helping one to improve their efficiency or effectiveness, not to make them a better person. While, successful parenting involves instilling strong values, for example, the drive to work hard, because strong values build strong character. Effective coaching involves enhancing knowledge, building specific job skills, and ensuring a strong understanding of organizational processes and procedures. 

At times, a supervisor may feel the need to take on the parent-role with a coworker, and give them some important character-building advice. I get a chance to do this from time-to-time myself. When I do, I understand that the co-worker becomes much more vulnerable to my input in this context, and expects me to take off my supervisor-hat before I proceed. It is at these times that an employee may personalize the message, taking the advice as an individual criticism instead of a teachable moment. The difference between the two is based solely on the skill of the supervisor, who must focus on communicating their message effectively. This will ensure that the employee receives the message the way it was intended. 

In either instance, the employee must have the proper mindset going into and following the discussion in order to make the recommended changes. Alternately, successful supervisors understand the difference between coaching and parenting at work. The former is a prerequisite to obtaining strong performance; the latter is simply a tool that can help a coworker build their own character.  

In reading this, I hope that some of you will take a moment to share a personal story that might relate to the above topic. It will make us all better in the future!

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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