Ethical Dilemmas for Leaders as Coach: Boundaries 2

When should you coach, when should you not coach, what are your boundaries?

It’s important to know what your boundaries are, where you feel ok to coach, and where you feel out of your depth.  When you are out of your depth, that may be the time to refer to someone else, either another coach or someone in a more fitting profession to meet the needs of the individual.

boundaries in coachingCoaching isn’t the panacea for every situation (where counselling or training might be more appropriate for example); though we’ve seen how much it helps employees to become independent, critical thinkers.

What are your thoughts?

Sometimes that “other profession” might still be you.

For example, where one of your employees needs training because they are new to the job.  When someone is new, they may not have the knowledge or experience to figure things out for themselves – except where they bring transferable skills with them.  It’s up to you to figure out whether you need to wear your coaching hat or your training hat.

Another example is in your role as manager as feedback giver.  You can use a coach-approach to feedback, asking them how they feel they did, rather than telling them; but it’s not coaching per se, as you have an agenda, to make sure the feedback is assimilated by the other person.

At times like these, it’s important to be clear that you are changing hat and that you are not their coach in that role.  Ideally, it’s best if you are coaching another manager’s staff rather than your own anyway, because they are more likely to open up to you if they don’t feel you are assessing their every move as a manager might.

This is a great boundary to draw – use a coach-approach to leading your own people, and actually coach people on other teams where you can be neutral and not blur the lines.

How do you manage those boundaries?


2 thoughts on “Ethical Dilemmas for Leaders as Coach: Boundaries

  • Nemo Shaw ACC

    I think if you are doing team manager type work then perhaps there are some restrictions on the agenda – i.e. it’s to fulfill the objectives of the organisation within the confines of the employees job role within the team…

    Is that the team managers agenda or the ‘subordinates’? Maybe is s shared agenda? If it is shared genuinely shared why not coach them to success in their role? Give them pure coaching – first clarify what success is in their eyes and if as manager you see it differently then tell them you are taking off your coaches hat and explain your view and seek agreement – be curious and open but get to the clarity – then put that coaching hat back on…. If it turns out they need training or mentoring, then set that up too, again boundaried – perhaps set up a separate session for such activities.

    I think the skill will matrix is also good here – think about where on the spectrum they are us it better to tell, mentor, coach, or delegate?

    I acknowledge that if it is you who are also the premson who signs off their appraisal/progress then naturally that will make it harder for the openess .

    Thanks and would love to hear from others too

    • Clare Post author

      Yes, my point is that performance management can skew the levels of trust between manager and managed. That can prevent a person from declaring their true needs to their manager, for fear of something being held against them at “rating” time. As organisations move away from once a year ratings, perhaps that will get better; but it does take a lot to change habits. I definitely buy into the skill/will matrix, and there coaching for task/role is absolutely in the manager’s remit. But coaching for career moves can be trickier, if a person isn’t happy with where they are for example and wants to figure out where their next role might be. Managers have a vested interest in keeping good people on the team, which can prevent them from being unbiased in these situations.

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