Skillsoft Blog

Are You Falling Into These Common Coaching Traps?

By Jim Clemmer

In an organizational survey at a large telecom company, managers were asked to rate how well they coached the people reporting to them. They scored themselves high. The people reporting to those managers were asked to rate the coaching they received. They scored their managers very low.

A big part of the problem is around the definition of coaching. Many managers call training (skill development or giving information) and mentoring (providing advice or sharing experience/wisdom) coaching. Many also confuse daily updates, task assignments, or problem solving for coaching.

I reviewed Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett’s outstanding book, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, years before The CLEMMER Group became Zenger Folkman’s partner. It’s by far the best book on coaching available today. In the book and our Extraordinary Coach workshops we see these common coaching traps ensnaring many managers:

  • Lack of preparation: one big reason commercial aviation has an incredible safety record is because pilots don’t just strap themselves in and take off.
  • Not clarifying what the coachee wants from the conversation: this determines whether it’s an adult to adult collaborative conversation and who’s going to own the action plan.
  • Too much air time—more than 25% of the talking: we use the acronym WAIT—Why Am I Talking as a reminder for the coach to ask powerful questions to expand the conversation.
  • Offering advice way too early in the conversation: training or mentoring is about giving advice. Coaching is about drawing out insights and actions from the coachee.
  • Not exploring multiple alternatives: research shows that when conversations push for at least three options much higher quality solutions emerge.
  • Failing to determine commitment to change: this leads directly to the manager trap “how’s my solution working for you.”

Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman recently conducted a webinar on becoming a better coach. You can viewing the recording of the webinar and participate in our Coaching Attributes and Perspectives Assessment afterward at no cost to see how you compare to outstanding coaches.

Reprinted with permission from The Leader Letter, Jim Clemmer’s free e-newsletter. For almost thirty years, Jim’s 2,000 + practical leadership presentations and workshops/retreats, seven bestselling books, columns, and newsletters have been helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. His website is

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