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Leader Skill: Are You Teaching, Telling, or Coaching?

By Tammy Grabowski | July 6, 2021
Leader Skill: Are You Teaching, Telling, or Coaching?

When you lead people, you take on many roles and responsibilities. None is more important than the role of helping the people on your team grow and develop, taking their performance to the next level. However, leaders can often resort to telling or teaching when coaching would be a better long-term play in these fast and furious times.

Teaching is about you. Coaching is about others, and tell, well telling is about short-term action with limited results. There’s a time to tell, a time to teach, and a time to coach; it’s important to know the difference and when to use each to maximum effectiveness.

Consider this 80-10-10 Plan:

When to Tell (10%)

Ten percent may be high for this communication style, but it is occasionally necessary. I consider it a communication style of last resort. Telling someone what to do leverages your title or position and can easily lead to disengaged team members if used too much. This style might be used when urgency is required or in the early stages of delegation when you want someone to take a specific action.

When to Teach (10%)

You might be thinking that ten percent is a low weighting for something that sounds so positive but let me tell you where teaching can lead to lower engagement and poorer results. When you focus on teaching as a leadership communication style, you communicate about yourself and what you think or know. Others are resigned to listening (you hope) and then putting your lesson to work in their job. Teachers don’t ask for much input from the student, and the student is only required to think about the narrow topic of discussion. Teaching is appropriate when a new process or strategy is being put in place.

When to Coach (80%)

When you become a coaching leader, you engage your team member in the process and tap into their knowledge and experience. You invite them to own the challenge being solved and multiply their capabilities by allowing them to think, solve and own.

I’ve noticed that a lot of leaders struggle with the leap from teaching to coaching. Teaching feels good. The leader feels smart and needed. I have caught myself on a coaching call teaching a lesson and not engaging the person I am coaching in the conversation. Coaching can seem slow and time-consuming. The magic of coaching is the investment you are making and will have enormous returns to you, the team, and your business in the form of more engaged and higher-skilled teammates.

About Perry Holley 

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.

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