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Coach, Not a Rescuer

Coach, Not a Rescuer

September 17, 2018

No one wants to be mean to their employees.

And no one said you should be.

But I also don’t believe in being overly-helpful, and here’s why:

Say your new saleswoman is just not meeting the mark.

So you start looking at her list and say to yourself, heck I know these are difficult people to deal with on the phone. Let me take care of the tough guys, and I’ll give her the easy ones.

What a considerate boss, right?


If you think just taking on someone else’s tasks is a system for success, you’re fooling yourself big time. Not only are you cheating yourself, but your cheating your new employee out of building up the skills she needs to take on the big fish on her own.

I think a little musical interlude here might drive the point home with MoTown’s “Rescue Me.” Take it away, Fontella!

(Someday I’ll release my chart of Greatest Hits for CEOs, it’s just great!)

So what do you wanna be: a cop or a rescuer?

The answer is neither. You want to be a coach.

Do you see the dynamic with being a rescuer? That makes your employee the helpless, hapless victim, waiting for you to save the day. If you only learn one thing from all my emails, it’s that NO ONE and NO PART of your company should be overly-dependent on you for success.

And guess whose job it is to set aside their ego, set aside unrealistic expectations, set aside their negative thinking, to make your business run smoother, and make more money, without your constant tinkering at every nut and bolt? Yours.

And you can do that starting now by learning how to become a Coach.

Download your printable Coaching Questions Card here.

This is an invaluable tool for creating a culture of competent, self-accountable team to drive your company’s success.

Here are the 6 Coaching questions you should use with your employees, and have your managers use with their teams, too:


1. I noticed that… What’s up?

Open up the dialogue with your objective observation, and leave out your interpretation of what’s happening with the employee.

Going back to the new saleswoman, this would go something like, “Mary, I noticed you didn’t meet your mark last week. What’s up?”

Mary might tell you that she had some difficult people stacked up on her list. She might say that she just couldn’t get through to the decision-makers, or she just wasn’t getting much interest.

Listen. Then ask:

2. What’s the real challenge here for you?

You’re not a psychoanalyst, or an interpreter. You don’t know what Mary’s thinking and what her existential issues are, and frankly that’s not your job. But you know that where there’s a problem, there’s a solution. You’re just guiding Mary in sifting through these hang-ups to try and find where the real problem lies.

Maybe it’ll come to light that Mary met with certain sales scenarios that she just wasn’t prepared for yet.

3. What’s your next step?

Following this line of being a coach, you’re gently encouraging the employee to reaching his or her own assessment of the situation, and a possible solution for moving forward. You’re giving the employee the space to talk it out, and you’re not offering your own advice. Let’s repeat this: DON’T OFFER ADVICE HERE.

Back to Mary, “Mary, what’s your next step?”

Mary might say something like, “Gee, I don’t know. I think I have to set a time with Sam [her direct manager] to get some more training on how to deal with these types of clients.”

This should be an attainable task that Mary can easily achieve to start gaining momentum towards achieving her final goal.

4. By when?

This is what makes it real. There’s knowing what we should do, and there’s setting a time for when we’re actually going to do it. It’s crucial, especially here, that you continue refraining from adding in your own expectations.

Why? You’re making Mary the owner of her problem, and you’re making her the owner of her potential success. Which leads to better self-confidence, which leads to more success, both for herself, and for the business. So even something so seemingly trivial as a due date has to come entirely from the employee.

“By when do you think you’ll have that meeting with Sam?”

“Sam is going away next Thursday, so I know that I need to make time with him by Wednesday afternoon.”

5. What support do you need?

You’re not a towering CEO, you’re a valuable resource of much knowledge to many people. Humbling yourself in front of an employee lets her know that, as company ethos, you value giving each other what you need to do your jobs to the best of your abilities (within reasonable boundaries and limits). Part of that boundary is only giving to someone who is ready to receive and is actively looking for support.

So you ask Mary what support she needs, and she says, “Well, actually, if you know of anyone else who’s been on the team for a long time and can give some pointers, I’d appreciate that.”

“Now that you mention it, Mary, Richard has successfully dealt with some of those clients in the past. How about I give you his email and you two can set up a time to talk?”

6. What was most useful for you here?

You’ve guided your employee in meting out the game plan and the timeline. Now wrap it up by allowing the employee a minute for introspection. Why? Because, as a leader, you’ll allow yourself the space to be self-aware as well. So goes the leader, so goes the company.

Download your printable Coaching Questions Card here.

This is an invaluable tool for creating a culture of competent, self-accountable team to drive your company’s success.

I think it's time to call our friends from Motown back for an encore.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,