Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Is coaching similar to parenting?

Being a father of two beautiful girls and also being a sales rep trainer for the past 10 years, I often asked myself this same question.

After having many “coaching sessions” (about values and skills), ultimately you have to let your kids keep learning and making their own mistakes when they grow up. If you did your job right, they´ll be happy and productive throughout their lives by being able to overcome the obstacles they´ll have to face.

With sales reps is the same thing: help them unleash their potential and continue growing.

For me at least, like many comparisons, you´ll find marked similarities and differences between parenting and coaching.

Here are some of them:

  1. To develop a person, it´s always a process. First, when you teach a skill, usually the person is focused and eager to start (highly motivated). Once they begin to practice the skill and experience difficulties implementing coaching will begin. Remember, the coach has all the questions (usually called powerful questions) and the coachee all the answers. Coaching is a process where you ask what went wrong (to help them become aware of the problem) and help the coachee find what they need to move on (help them sort it out). The same goes for parenting. and ultimately they´ll be able to perform the task at an unconscious level. It´s until the skill is mastered that you take it to the next level. In both scenarios (coaching and parenting), it´s the same progression.
  2. Adult learning is quite different from children learning. With adults, you have first to get in agreement that the specific tool applies to their job and that it will be of benefit before you begin the actual training. With children, many skills will be learned even if they´re not applied directly to their daily lives.
  3. Once a skill is learned, it´s much easier for an adult to keep doing it correctly because they see the benefits and are willing to use that particular set of skills. For a child is more difficult and will require more repetition in the long run.
  4. As I witnessed yesterday, watching my wife with my 6-year-old daughter, role-playing (which is a common tool in coaching) can also be used to accelerate learning by doing the way it applies in sales training.

So, they are not interchangeable but definitely share many similarities.

The next time you´re coaching someone on your team, remember that as many of us have experienced, it's a progression. You cannot expect somebody to perform a task the way you picture it on your head if you haven´t sat down with your collaborator and at least explained to them how they should do the task (if they already have the necessary set of skills). The same is also true when someone masters a skill: don´t try to explain how they should do the task, delegate. (otherwise, there could be demotivation).