I caught an old episode of the Channel 4 show Help My House is Falling down the other day. It struck me as a great analogy for why coaching works.
If you haven't seen it before, each episode follows a family who has fallen in love with an old house. Soon after they move in they begin to realise that it isn't as perfect as they thought, mainly because there are huge cracks appearing in the walls.
The families do their best to fix the crack by filling them or plastering and wall papering over them. They think it's fantastic when the crack disappears from view, then quickly become distraught when the crack begins to re-appear.
They then call in Sarah Beeny. Sarah turns up with a structural engineer who takes a good look at the foundations of the house, the roof, the walls, the land the house in built on. They are trying to find is what is causing the crack in the first place - the root cause.
Once they find this, Sarah helps the families by providing a number of different options to fix the root of the problem. Once fixed, the crack is plastered over and doesn't return.
If coaching is done effectively, this is exactly what it should do. If we just tell people what they should be doing, how they should be doing it, when they should be doing it or even how they should change, you probably get to see a very short lived change in their behaviour. They quickly go right back to what they were doing before. Just like plastering over the crack.
To see a longer term change in behaviour we should try to establish or help them to understand what is causing the initial problem. For example, if someone is under-performing and looks very demotivated, telling them to cheer up, pull their socks up, get their finger out (or whatever your choice of words) and start hitting their targets won't necessarily fix the problem.
Instead, take some time to find out what the problem is. What are they demotivated? It could well be something outside of work, a problem in work, who knows. Well, actually, there is only one person on the planet that knows and that's them!
Help them find the root cause. Help them to understand how the issue is affecting them and help them to choose the right way to fix it.
If you want more help, information, tips and techniques on coaching then you can get all of these and more on one of our Coaching Skills Training Courses. See the online course overview here and the in-house overview here for more information.