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The power of coaching – why it pays to nurture self-efficacy

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Individuals that solve and overcome their challenges without being handed answers on a plate are more likely to be successful.

So you know the feeling, as a manager you don’t always have the time to coach a team member. It’s quicker and easier to give them the answer and instruct them on the next steps. You’re right, sort of. This time. The next time this team member stalls, what do you think they will do.

The Manager...

You there, yes you. The one with the answers and the job title that suggests you should give them away freely. Long term how realistic is this, how much are you doing f

or you your team that they should have got a handle on by now? It’s not intentional, clearly. A little coaching early on can relieve you of some strain AND leave your team feeling capable and empowered.

What if you start from the position that your team can deal with their challenges, that they have what they need to solve or create solutions to the problems that arise. What if you believe that your job is to help them only if they really are properly stuck or if it’s obvious that only you have the answer.

The Case for Coaching

A study in 2013 demonstrated the value coaching brings; where a feeling of self-efficacy is a better solution than instruction and direction. The brains of a small group of participants were studied via fMRI. During the study, the subjects were given sentences and phrases that were ‘advisory’ in nature. Sentences such as “the best way is xxx”. What they noticed was that this advice set off a response in the area of the brain associated with threat, suggesting that the subjects would likely resist the information or ignore it completely.

Those in the study that were coached, that were encouraged to explore what was important to them and were asked questions that helped them connect to the subject at a level of purpose and intent, lit up to show activity in the areas of the brain associated with reward. This suggests a release of dopamine. A one of our best friends for habit formation.

Coaches are likely to smile at this, they also won’t find this information particularly surprising. We witness our clients make lasting changes in their limiting believes and assumptions. None of which comes from the giving of advice or ever uttering the words “I think you should…”

Gentle, empathetic and yet focused exploration of these areas enables coachees to utilise insight, observation and introspection. The consequences of which lead them to feeling more capable, reflective, even resilient. Feeling that they have the mental horsepower and capacity to problem solve when new challenges occur.

Sustainable Performance

This can be deeply motivating. One question of course, is how to keep this alive, to use this new found ability and confidence across various contexts. As coaches, we can encourage our clients to jot down notes, we can build on progress made by considering how the thinking can be applied in various situations so it’s not embedded as a single-context solution.

Individuals that engage and involve others to act as accountability partners can find value in having a trusted colleague share in what they’re trying to build as habit. This brings observation, help and support should old patterns surface. They can also help in celebrating achievement steps along the way. A great way to reinforce new behaviours. Another way to get that healthy hit of dopamine.

Are you a manager, a leader of people? What is your view on coaching? The science would suggest it’s the stronger strategy for lasting empowering change for your team. How comfortable might you be to take that initial investment in time or financially to include coaching the longer-term gains.

“Education is not the learning of the facts but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein

Study Source Data and References

Jack AI, Boyatzis RE, Khawaja MS, Passarelli AM, Leckie RL. Visioning in the brain: an fMRI study of inspirational coaching and mentoring. Soc Neurosci. 2013;8(4):369-84. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2013.808259. PMID: 23802125.

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