“I am dreading this conversation!” Anna (an executive coaching client) had a tone of resignation in her voice. She was not looking forward to yet another conversation with Bob (her direct report) about how he was going to resolve his people issues.

Bob has an issue with micro-managing his people. Three people in his department have recently resigned. Anna had a conversation with Bob about how he was going to fix the issue two weeks ago, but nothing has changed. The rest of his people seem to be in a state of resignation.

Sort of like Anna. She’s resigned to having to go in and fix the problem herself. You see, Anna’s really good at fixing problems (finding root causes, thinking through solutions, getting results).

Clearly, Anna’s coaching with Bob is not getting results and it’s frustrating Anna. Most high-achievers like Anna are energized by fixing the problem.

How about you? Is your coaching getting results?

When coaching isn’t working, the question to ask is: “Am I coaching the person or fixing the problem?” . The coaching conversation is very different, depending upon whether your focus is on the person or the problem.

The questions you ask, and the tone of the conversation is different when you’re trying to fix the problem. In Anna’s case, she’s defining the problem as “We have several people who have resigned and morale is low. I need to fix this. I can’t count on Bob because nothing has changed in the last two weeks”.

Here’s the “Fix The Problem” scenario. Anna sets up a meeting with Bob. Here are the questions she asks:

  • Why is the morale issue not fixed?
  • What will it take to fix the issue?
  • How does Bob intend to manage the department with the vacancies he has?
  • What’s his timeline and plan of action?

In this instance, Anna’s focus is to jump in and fix the morale and vacancies issue.

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