Tip #1: Assume you could be wrong

As a manager preparing for a coaching or feedback session, maintaining a level of trust and respect is crucial. In order to get buy-in for any solution we hope to achieve with the direct report, it’s important to keep tip #1 in mind: “I could be wrong”.


Coaching Tips

Of course, the feedback session should use facts as a foundation, but humans tend to fill in the gaps with assumptions and judgments about what the facts mean.

Here’s an unfortunate example from my management past.

I was a new manager who, at that time, had no managerial training. I managed my team with many of the same techniques I had experienced from my past managers. Not all of those techniques were appropriate or effective but it’s all I knew at the time.

Fact: I saw-let’s call him John-approach his coworker Tracy’s, cubicle, look around and then remove a $20 bill from her desk.

What assumption would you make? When I tell this scenario in my Coaching classes, and ask, what assumption would you make? Invariably students say, “He stole the money.”

Well, that’s the assumption I made too. I wish I had assumed I could be wrong!

I did what my previous managers had done, I took immediate action! I promptly asked Jim to come to my office and asked him why he had taken the money. He looked at me as if I had slapped him.

He told me the group had gone out for drinks the previous night and he had paid for Tracy’s drinks. They had decided she owed him $20. She had told me that she would leave the money on her desk and if she wasn’t there, he should go ahead and take it.

Where I had assumed he was looking around to see if anyone was watching, he was in fact looking around to see if she was nearby. Where I assumed he was an opportunist stealing money from a coworker, he was collecting on a debt.

I violated trust and respect that day and I never made that mistake again.

It’s natural for humans to fill in the gaps with assumptions and interpretations for what a fact or behavior means. We do it all the time. Being aware of this short-cut to daily interactions is step one to ensuring a respectful and successful coaching session. Look at the facts and then ask questions with an open mind. You may learn that the assumptions you made on the facts you gathered are incorrect.

If you assume there could be another version of the truth, you will give the other person a chance to tell you what happened and why they did what they did. It’s a lesson I will never forget.

In Tip #2: Name it I’ll share another helpful coaching idea.

Caryn Colgan
Good Spirited Consulting Co


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