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Coaching or Counseling?

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In a recent Sales Manager Leadership class, one of the sales managers asked a question we’ve heard many times before. “If an employee becomes resistant during a coaching session, how do you know when it’s time to stop coaching and start counseling?” This situation can be very frustrating for the manager who is only trying to help improve things for the employee.

When facilitating the Performance Coaching module of our Sales Management Leadership Program, we focus on developing both competence (skills) and willingness (attitude) in employees. This also applies in coaching sessions.

So how can a manager tell when it’s time to stop coaching and apply counseling?

Strategy: Pay close attention to the employee’s level of willingness during the coaching session.

If the employee appears to lack the willingness to reasonably participate in the coaching discussion, then you should consider light counseling in the hope of getting them back on track. You can confront the employee’s unwillingness and still be positive, empathetic and supportive.

One example would be, “Please help me. We’re having a conversation so that I can help you with this issue. You appear resistant. Can you help me understand why?”

So, if an employee seems unwilling to participate in your coaching session and asking more questions does not seem to be bringing them closer to the conversation, then counsel. Once they are more willing to participate in the conversation then, if appropriate, return to coaching.

Written by:  Kim D. Ward - Director of Education & Training


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