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Coaching demystified – When should Coaching NOT be used?

August 27, 2013

Leading on from the previous 2 blogposts where I addressed the following questions:

Why should organizations pay attention to coaching as a tool for L&D?

The difference between coaching and mentoring

This post focuses on talking about situation when it is inappropriate to use Coaching as a tool. Like all developmental inputs, Coaching too has a particular context in which it can be useful and others in which it must not be attempted.

The simplest guideline is to ensure that coaching is not used for skill-building or knowledge-transfer. Mentoring, education, training are better inputs.

Coaching should also NOT be used for Remedial purposes. Asking a coach to step in to help “change” the rigid, inflexible head of finance into a more amenable person is also not an appropriate coaching assignment. It might work. But the chances of failure are high. Honestly, if 25 years of feedback from colleagues, bosses, friends and HR have not switched his light on, I doubt a coach can do much.

The maximum value is derived from coaching high potential individuals in order to help them develop that potential into tangible and consistent performance. As a Leader, that’s the best path you can choose.


Mansoor puts it well when he says “Coaching outcomes should B linked 2 business success. Don’t coach if U don’t have measures around coaching behavior” @_mansoor1 and Jaya endorses a similar sentiment when she says “Coaching should not be used when the goals are short term and shallow for the organization and individual” @nohrgyan

@Namrata_Kum says “Coaching should not be used in a fire fighting scenario, or made compulsory for an employee against his readiness/will”, to which @SujitSumitran adds “Coaching should not be used to fix the leaders agenda” and you’d be surprised how often that can happen. @sonaliramaiah seems to agree when she says “Coaching may not work wen there is an agenda involved. Managers usually cannot separate themselves from this.”
What @tanvi_gautam says is so true today – “Do not use Coaching because a competitor is using it !” and @RajeshMTHRG nails it by asserting “Don’t use coaching as a ‘best practice‘ for heaven’s sake!”
One of my favourite quotes comes from @SangitaSri “When goals are defined, appoint mentors. When goals are unknown, appoint coaches.” I tend to agree.
Many times, the cause and effect between a behaviour and the developmental action required to correct it, are not known. I refer once again, to the Sachin Tendulkar example I used in my earlier blogpost, about him not knowing what it is that affects his game when he’s near a significant landmark. In such instances, a coach will help navigate the unknown and lead the protege to greater clarity around cause and effect. When this achieved, the organization and the protege can focus on the actual cause and enable long-lasting change.

The questions that will come up in subsequent blogposts are:

4. What does it take to be a good coach ?

5. What is an ideal coaching candidate like ?

6. What are the challenges of establishing a successful coaching culture in a firm ?

Hope you are enjoying the series!

You can follow me on twitter @joyandlife and find me on LinkedIn

Please ensure you take a look at

And do leave a comment on your experiences with when coaching works and when it doesn’t.

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