Stop Correcting, Start Coaching: Three Conversational Techniques to Change the Way You Manage People

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Carrie 2By Carrie Stiles, MBA, CRA, RT(R)(CT) 

Kenneth Schafer, BBA, from SpeechCheck, Inc. led a fun and engaging breakout session where we learned how to stop talking at people and start talking with them. He started off by asking us to think about whether we were quarterbacks or coaches. Both are needed and are effective ways of moving people forward; however one is a manager and one is a leader. We want to be leaders! In order to grow as leaders, we have to avoid being too directional and problem-solving for others, and we need to move past “positional authority.”

Coaching is a relationship with a purpose, focused on facilitating improvement. Kenneth explained that coaching is not psychotherapy, manipulation, supervision, criticism, or a substitute for decision making. Coaching, mentoring, teaching, and counseling are all related but the terms are not interchangeable. Anyone can learn to coach (this was encouraging to hear), it can be formal or informal, and it can go down the chain of command…..or up! He really kept the crowd engaged and explained the concepts in ways that were easy to understand. We also had three practice sessions where we were divided into groups of three and got to practice being both the coach and the coachee. This was extremely helpful and a lot of us were reminded that coaching takes practice. So many of us wanted to immediately jump in and solve the problem. Kenneth commented on this and reminded us to stop talking at people and talk with them! Help them to come up with the solution themselves.

We were given three main tips in regards to Coaching 101.

  1. When in doubt, celebrate!
    We can always deal with the mess but first, ask what is going well. No matter what is going wrong in that moment, there is always a lot to celebrate. This is important to remember because what gets celebrated gets repeated. A great quote he shared with us was: “Develop perpetual optimism and give it away.”
  1. Listen well!
    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. He reminded us that we need to catch before we pitch and to stop interrupting.
  1. Ask great questions!
    Make sure you understand what the person is saying. Listening is a very, very big deal! Kenneth also advised us to ask open-ended questions because they ask for a bigger response and force the coachee to engage. A really effective way to get the coachee to engage more is to remain silent during parts of the conversation. Silence is ok, and good coaches know when to pause and wait. It can be uncomfortable, so the coachee will start talking more to fill the silence.

In summary, this was an amazing session and everyone in attendance really seemed to enjoy it. I think all of us are striving to become better leaders and by practicing these skills and becoming great coaches, we can accomplish that goal. In addition to this, it’s important for us to have a great coach as well. It seems in the workplace there’s this notion that once you get to a certain point, you no longer need instruction. Coaching in pro sports proceeds from a starkly different premise: it considers the teaching model naïve about our human capacity for self-perfection. It holds that, no matter how well prepared people are in their formative years, few can achieve and maintain their best performance on their own. Imagine what we could accomplish if we carried this idea over to the workplace!

Carrie Stiles, MBA, CRA, RT(R)(CT) works at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX. She can be reached at

One comment

  1. Listening is a key skill in terms of communication. Without good communication management process will fail.

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