The leader as coach – releasing potential or intimidation?


Maria just blogged about a coaching-experience here and here which inspired me to think yet again about the paradox of managers taking on the role as coaches.

Coaching has been called an intimate technology (“intimteknologi”) of management. Intimate in that it is one-to-one, and has the behavior and understanding and stories of Self as it’s subject. Possibly intimidating as the coach – or coaching manager – could cross the personal domain of privacy attempting to get the person in question to reflect on central issues in (work) life. I remember one of the training programs that I’ve been involved in, trying to learn how to coach (this particular incident was at CBS) where I raised the question of the appropriateness of the manager being a coach. Would it be an appropriate role to take on as a leader and how would it fit the role as a manager at other times? Would it be trustworthy to hand out a “I want this job done this way” sort of authoritarian message at one point and step into the coaching role, taking on empathic, questioning principles at another point?

I came to think that we’re all changing roles at different points in time and in different contexts. Most leaders shift from one role to another at different times, delegating, being authoritative or authoritarian at different times (the best of them are able of assuming the right leadership role at the right time or in the right situation and hence getting the best potential out of the person or situation) and the role as a coach can be considered in that understanding. I am always being “myself” but different challenges has to draw on different abilities and roles from the “giving orders” end to the “dialogical” partner discussing things. The challenge is to make it clear what “mode” we are in. I know the feeling from sessions with my own coach. Sometimes I don’t feel like being coached. I just want to know the freakin’ answer and get to work! Other times I don’t want any answers, I want to figure it out myself. And if those two different modes of discussing or communicating are mixed it gets really confusing and frustrating!

After reading Marias post and Annes comment I thought, wow, we really need to keep that up! If it’s a rewarding part of working at STAGIS and it helps us keep focus at what we’re good at (as individuals and as groups) we should make sure we get the best out of that dimension of the company. But what is an appropriate amount of coaching sessions (by this I mean sessions that are planned as meetings, not the everyday coaching approach)?

(I’ve written quite a lengthy post, read the remains and join the discussion here:)