We all rely on healthy constructive criticism in order to learn and grow as professionals. But what happens when coaching becomes straight up criticism? Christine Laperriere of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre is here to remind us all how heavy-handed coaching can backfire ― and how we can prevent our confidence from crumbling under the pressure.
by Christine Laperriere
As Lead Coach with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I often am tasked with coaching some of the brightest women in an organization. Recently, one of my clients called and asked if I could support her on a complex issue.
On our call she explained that her manager had decided in his effort to help her advance, he was going to give her “extra coaching.” To many of us, we’d be thrilled to have additional coaching to support our efforts to grow. But this manager had started to repeatedly point out this woman’s flaws in her leadership style ― she accused him of coaching “too much.”
One day he commented she came off as aggressive, the next day he noted that she interrupted someone. After a few months of working for him, she had completely lost her confidence. She said every meeting she went into she was thinking, “don’t be too aggressive” or “don’t be too dominating” or “be sure not to interrupt.” The storyline in her head was so busy telling her what she should not do, she had no focus on what she should be doing in the moment. Ultimately, as a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.
“As a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.”
This client’s story reminded me of one important component of fantastic coaching: the observation of “current state” behaviours with heavy emphasis and direction around what “future state” looks like. As I listened to a number of observations her manager had given her, I started to ask her what behaviours she should focus on doing more of. Pretty soon she concluded that she wanted to be a better listener who focused on hearing another person’s full thought. She also noticed that she wanted to stay calm in discussions with other parts of the organization so she could better work with them. By the end of the conversation, she realized that if she could simply bring her attention to staying calm, curious, and listening more, she could perform so much better than focusing on what she might do wrong.
She called a few weeks later to say that she had found a few simple mantras that she’d often play in her head during tough meetings; “stay calm, curious, and listen” was her favourite. She said that making this simple shift in thinking not only helped her create a noticeable shift in her presence in meetings, it was actually making work much more fun and less stressful for her. I know that more fun ultimately means more success, so I simply encouraged her to stay on this path in the future.
Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.