Moving from corrector to coach | A life-changing breakthrough

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[Written by Steve Van Remortel on August 5th, 2020]


“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.” – Bob Nelson

This quote by Bob Nelson captures the essence of one of the greatest breakthroughs that I see in leaders as they develop. That breakthrough is when a leader (in a business or at home) moves from being a corrector to a coach.

A corrector leadership style lights the fire beneath his/her employees. I have witnessed this style having varying levels of success. Many people have come to consider this an “old school” management style and are typically not received well by younger generations.

Transforming from a corrector to a coach is typically a life-changing breakthrough for any leader. It requires a change in mindset. You must train yourself to see an employee’s or child’s failure or mistake as an opportunity to coach and teach, rather than a chance to correct. You have to catch yourself and change your approach. It’s not easy at first, but the sooner you begin to make this transition from correcting to coaching, the more effective leader you will be.

Typically, leaders have a dominant behavioral style and do not have the patience for coaching. Their first response is to correct someone rather than teach them. At the time, it seems easier to tell someone how he did something wrong or how he should have done it. In reality, it would be better to ask the person the right questions to help him learn for himself.

Below is a suggested process to help you move from being a corrector to being a coach:

  • First, when a mistake is made, catch, and collect yourself. Take a long deep breath
  • You coach by asking questions instead of making statements. I truly believe the three most important words you should start your coaching sentence with is “Help me understand…….” Ask the person why he did something the way he did it. Through questions, help him see other options to do it better the next time
  • If he still can’t understand your approach or perspective, explain how you might do it differently in the future
  • Summarize what has been learned from the discussion and what change in behavior should be made moving forward
  • Encourage him – for listening and for his desire to improve

There are numerous benefits to becoming a coach instead of a corrector. When you are in the correcting mode, the individual can often lose the message in the delivery. In other words, he may stop listening because of the approach. When you are coaching, the person becomes more aware of how he might change. It increases the chance that he will be more effective next time. Rather than you giving him the solution, he provided it himself.

Becoming a coach does not mean that you don’t hold others accountable. Coaching maintains accountability with the individual you are coaching. A corrector leadership style can release an employee from accountability because you are telling them how to complete their task. In other words, by telling them how to do it, you now assumed accountability. The employee does not own it any further because they are doing what you told them to do.

When you move from corrector to coach, you will begin to see a real culture shift in your organization and home. Others begin to make decisions and take ownership of those decisions. Things start getting done. It moves the culture from a feeling of fear to a sense of empowerment. People are no longer waiting to be told what to do.

The transformation from corrector to coach can begin for anyone at any time. Where are you at in your transformation? Do you light a fire under your teammates or light a fire within? Remember, Those Who Plan – PROFIT!