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How to Coach Employees Who Don't Want to Be Coached

How to coach employees who don't want to be coached

Coaching is about facilitating positive change. But what can you do as a leader when your organisation pushes coaching as a performance intervention on an individual who does not want to change?

There are numerous ways in which your employee's resistance to coaching can be demonstrated. He or she may continuously reschedule the meetings in a passive attempt to avoid it, or simply decline an offer to be coached in a direct way.

The temptation is to turn a blind eye, especially if it concerns more experienced employees who you trust will do a good enough job. However, in doing so, managers and leaders ignore the opportunity to help their employee develop and achieve a greater satisfaction from work and life.

So what can you do when your employee is resistant to accepting your help?

Here are some practical steps you can take to overcome that challenge.

1. Understand the reasons behind their resistance

Instead of forcing coaching on your employees, make a conscious effort to see the situation from their perspective.

Schedule a face-to-face meeting to talk to them about their concerns. Allow yourself to be genuinely interested in hearing their story. Put yourself in their shoes as you try to understand what is it that leads them to cancelling your meetings or what really is behind their hesitation to accepting your help.

Showing your employee that you are actively seeking to understand their reasons can be enough to bring them closer to the idea of being coached.

2. Trust, safety, transparency

Establishing and operating in the environment of trust, safety and transparency is a crucial aspect of coaching. Because of the nature of coaching, by exploring their thoughts and feelings in front of their manager a coachee can feel vulnerable, which is not a comfortable place to be.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to build a positive and trusting relationship with an employee who you're trying to coach:

  • Share your own experience of being coached;
  • Highlight that everything that is said during your sessions is confidential and won't be repeated to anyone else in the organisation;
  • Actively listen to your employee, avoid interrupting, paraphrase back to them and mirror their style;
  • Ask for permission to share your observations and while expressing your thoughts focus on actions or behaviours rather than on a person.

3. Bigger picture

Often, resistance to coaching is related to the lack of knowledge and the fear of failure that can be associated with that. To settle this fear, give your employees a reminder of what they’re working toward, what the company's mission and values are. Make sure they understand how this impacts their own goals and objectives and how they can contribute the the final outcome. Highlight the importance of bridging the knowledge gap that it's just as important for their own development as it is for the company's growth. 

While coaching employees who tend to resist the process, use these goals and objectives as an anchor. Referring back to their goals and objectives will release the pressure and discomfort of feeling exposed and vulnerable and let the employee focus on something tangible and measurable.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of coaching depends on a positive relationship with your employees and as such, it can take time and work. However, if someone is resistant to being coached, pressurising him or her into it may damage your relationship.

If the employee continues to resist your help despite all your efforts, simply put the coaching on pause. If the issue you're trying to resolve is serious, consider bringing in an external consultant or someone from your HR team to help.

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