Are you riding tandem or hammering a screw?

Ed Batista is an executive coach, a change management consultant and a Leadership Coach at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  I’ve been following his blog and his exceptional work for several years.  He had another great post this week titled: “Hammering Screws (Bad Coaching).  His post is worth reading if you are a manager, youth coach, parent or anyone involving in teaching or coaching.  I’ve often found myself pressing in coaching scenarios because I’ve haven’t seen fast enough progress.  And as Ed suggests, sometimes the need to be an effective coach overtakes the real purpose of the exercise – to help the one being coached.  I’ve shared several excerpts below:

“…good coaching should feel like a trip in a tandem kayak…a meaningful experience shared with a trust partner..while bad coaching feels like hammering screws — a solo effort on the part of the coach that can make a lot of noise by accomplishes very little…”

“…I’ve realized that bad coaching typically results from underlying needs of my own, particularly a need for the client to experience progress or to achieve some sense of closure.  This may sound paradoxical.  Don’t coaches want our clients to experience progress?  Isn’t closure a desirable outcome of the coaching process?”

“…My interest in my clients’ progress is usually aligned with my desire to an effective coach.  And my interest in achieving closure–whether that means resolving a particular issue or ultimately concluding the coaching relationship–usually supports both my clients’ progress and, more importantly, their independence and self-sufficiency.  To be clear, while these interests primarily serve my clients’ needs, they also allow me to feel a sense of fulfillment and efficacy, and I believe that having this personal stake in the coaching process actually makes me a better coach because I’m not a disinterested bystander–I care deeply about my clients, and I’m invested in their success.

But it’s important for me to monitor these interests and to gauge their intensity; if I’m feeling a sense of urgency around them, it may be that my need to be seen as effective or another personal motive has kicked into overdrive, and it’s masquerading as support for my client.  The telltale evidence that this dynamic is at play is my client sensing that I’m pushing a solution on them, relying on a single framework or strategy in my approach, or simply rushing toward closure before they’re ready to move on…”


  1. Thanks for the kind words, David–I appreciate it, particularly coming from someone who, like me, makes the effort to learn from his own experiences and share the results with others on a site like this. (I love the snowflakes, btw.)

    – Ed


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