I Don’t Have Time to Coach!


Share on LinkedIn

If I had a nickle for every time I heard a leader say, “I don’t have time to coach my employees”, I would be a rich woman.  Well I don’t and I’m not!

I hear this common, let’s call it what it is, excuse from leaders every day.  Some might say to these leaders, “we make time for the things that are truly important” or “you can’t afford not to make time.”  While I agree with these folks and have probably said it myself more times than I would like to admit, I think we need to address the underlying issues.

I believe there are three key causes that prompt the excuse, “I don’t have time to coach my employees.”

1. It’s not a priority.

On our list of things to do, we tend to avoid or push to tomorrow things that are not important to us.  Let’s take exercise as an example.  I am not a fan of exercise at all.  I know the benefits, I know how to do it and I want to do it.  I am your classic example of working out hard for one day and then hanging it up for a month before dusting off my gym shoes and trying it again.  For a long time exercise was not a priority for me.  I always found something else to focus my effort and energy on instead of lacing up my shoes and getting busy.  It was easy to avoid exercise and I often told myself, “I don’t have time.”  It wasn’t until I sat down, set goals, selected a set time to work out and committed to doing it that I made exercise a priority.  I shared my goals with others and they helped hold me accountable.  I got up every day, laced up my shoes and worked towards my goal.  All of sudden guess what, I had time to exercise.  I just had to make it my priority.

As a leader you have to ask yourself what’s my priority?  Where do I spend my time?  How do I spend my time?  How does that help my team?  How does it help my employees?  What small change can I make today to make coaching employees a priority?  Once you choose to make something a priority your behaviors will follow.

2. The leader is uncomfortable.

When I started my daily exercise regime it was uncomfortable.  I was uncoordinated as I did my step aerobics, I had no idea if I had the right form for my lunges or squats, I felt like a fish out of water.  I had to push through my discomfort every day.  And guess what, I started to get it and what was once uncomfortable is now comfortable.

Human nature is to be as comfortable as possible.  Sure we like to challenge ourselves but when it becomes uncomfortable we often retreat to what we know.  The truth of the matter is that discomfort is a function of growth.  If you are comfortable, you are not growing.  As a leader, you have to admit to yourself and be okay with the fact that you are a work in progress.  You don’t have to be perfect at everything just because you’re the boss.  In fact, the more your employees can see that you are challenging your own comfort zone and that you aren’t perfect, they will begin to do the same.

The key here is to get moving.  The only way to combat discomfort is to face it head on.  What will you do today to challenge your comfort zone?  Once you challenge yourself and act on that challenge ask yourself, what worked for me?  Also ask, what didn’t work for me?  And finally ask, what will I do next time?  Yes, there is a next time.  Leadership is not an event it’s a journey.

3. The leader doesn’t know what to do or how to coach employees.

The fact of the matter is a lot of leaders do know what to do and do know how to do it, it just isn’t a priority.  If that’s the case no amount of training or mentoring is going to help.  Begin by making coaching and the development of others a priority.

Some leaders though have been promoted through the ranks and all of sudden they are in charge.  Yet they have had very little training and/or mentoring on how to coach and lead employees.  That’s okay.  Realize you aren’t always going to know everything or know how to do everything.  Your job is not to be perfect, it’s to make progress in your development and help others make progress everyday towards the organizations goals.  If it’s knowledge you need, then go get it.  Don’t wait for someone else to provide it.  Take charge of your career!

Realize that coaching doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process.  One where you sit down with the employee behind closed doors and coach.  While sometimes coaching is a sit down meeting, that’s not the only form of effective coaching.  In fact, on-the-fly coaching is often more effective and can be done more frequently.  And get this, it doesn’t take much time once it’s a priority and you challenge your comfort zone.

If you don’t know what to do, start by focusing on positive reinforcement.  Get out of your office and observe your employees.  As you are observing pay attention for the things that are on-target in their performance.  Then tell them about it.  Be sure to focus on the behaviors you observed and the impact of those behaviors.  Employees learn from the things they do well and when you take the time to point out the positive they will repeat these behaviors.

Another on-the-fly coaching technique is to ask your employees questions.  Find out what their greatest challenge is.  Ask what excites them.  Ask them what their goals are for today.  Ask questions related to your mission, vision and core values.  Ask questions and then listen.  By asking questions, you are engaging in a conversation about performance in a non-threatening manner.

These are just few ideas to help combat the excuse of, “I don’t have time to coach my employee’s.”  Excuses don’t change results.  If you want to enhance the performance of your team and employees realize it starts with you.  Make it a priority.  Challenge your comfort zone.  Recognize that often times you do know what to do and how to do it and if you don’t, take a class, read a leadership book, find a mentor.  It’s up to you.

What advice would you a give a leader who says, “I don’t have time to coach.”?

What other factors do you think contribute to this all too common excuse?

What on-the-fly coaching techniques do you use to coach your employees?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kelly Ketelboeter
Kelly is an experienced training professional with over 14 years of corporate classroom training both as an employee and consultant. She has managed and consulted over 75 clients nationwide and in Canada in the areas of customer service, relationship based selling and coaching/management.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here