How Coaching Stands Out: Influence and Achieving Results

You have probably heard of Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. You may be surprised that this classic text holds the key to understanding the difference amongst the many ways you can encourage development in your team.

One of Carnegie’s core principles also deftly illuminates the difference between typical development modalities – managing, advising, and mentoring and coaching. Coaching stands alone in its impressive capacity to, as Carnegie puts it, “arouse in the other person an eager want,” thus enabling the coach to positively influence and cultivate development in others. Carnegie is crystal-clear in his argument that the most effective way to influence people is to discuss with them what they want and help them see how they may attain that goal.

Coaching is designed to execute on Carnegie’s principle; in comparison, other development efforts fall short in exploring the other person’s point of view and viewing a situation from their angle. Managing, advising, and mentoring – while still incredibly helpful methods of supporting others – are also fundamentally top-down and directive in their approach. Curious to learn more about how coaching is different? I’ve provided more information on how coaching contrasts with other approaches below:

Managing: I often work with leaders who believe their traditional management techniques already encompass coaching; the frequency of this mistake has been addressed by Zenger and Folkman in the Harvard Business Review. The truth is, coaching is not a natural skill for all managers and it is not merely acquired in the process of learning how to manage. In fact, the skills necessary for high-quality coaching are quite different than the skills required to be a high-performing manager. Further, a traditional management approach encompasses fundamental attributes that are the opposite of coaching – this includes a directive vs. collaborative style and a preference for being ‘the expert’ versus fostering discovery in team members.

Advising: Similar to managing, advising involves providing the answer to those seeking guidance. Some advisors may be less directive than managers, particularly if they are not in the seeker’s chain of command, but they will still give advice and suggestions on a path to follow.

Mentoring: Many development practitioners consider a great mentor to be a “sage on the stage” who uses the benefit of their previous experience to provide advice to those on a similar path. Successful mentors have direct experience similar to the coachee. As a result, they are uniquely positioned to provide valuable, specific guidance that is also undeniably directive.

Coaching: The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” In direct contrast to managing, advising, or mentoring, coaches are a “guide on the side,” responsible primarily for creating a partnership that provides space and support for coachees to explore their own self-determined solutions.

Coaching is fundamentally different from other development options due to its emphasis on the coachee as the driver of interactions. This simple fact accounts for the outsized success of coaching – individuals are much more likely to pursue goals and options that they have uncovered themselves. Coaching is designed to facilitate action through the agency and motivation that already exists within coachees; coaches provide the support they need to act on their solutions. This is a powerful, deeply motivating method of encouraging development and growth, and is transformative precisely because it is far less directive than traditional approaches.

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