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I want to coach IT people...why don't they think they need it?

By Plan B ·
I'm confused. I'm a former long-time IT person that has retrained as a trainer and personal coach. I've chosen IT people as my niche - Executives, Managers, and Professionals. As a former IT Manager myself, I used a coach for a year and it changed my life.

I'm on the West Coast of Canada and coaching of all kinds is very popular here - from life/personal to business to career to executive to relationship. Yet, I'm finding the IT people I approach either don't know what it is or don't think it can help them in any way.

Perhaps I'm explaining it poorly? I know IT people in general are very self-assured and analytical. It's difficult to explain the ROI in "real" terms. I had to be convinced that it was worthwhile before I started.

What advice can you give an aspiring IT coach to help connect to IT people that are looking for/needing coaching? Alternatively, how would you explain the benefits of coaching to an IT person?

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What convinced me?

by Plan B In reply to "I had to be convinced th ...

Amongst other things:
- That is was a reward, not a punishment.
- That it was confidential and 'safe' to discuss any topic.
- That I controlled the agenda.
- That I could call it off anytime I wanted.
- That it could help me improve my work relationships.

This was when executive coaching was just becoming more known. I had read up a bit about what execs had achieved and how execs responded to being coached and it seemed like it was worth a try.

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They don't think they need it because they don't

by gwcarter In reply to I want to coach IT people ...

You note that IT people are very self-assured. This is prima facie evidence that they don't need coaching. The whole purpose of coaching is to put a band-aid on the self-doubt and insecurity that our modern "Political Correctness" is intended to render us prey to. Those of us who produce results have no need of a coach, and those of us who don't should leave the profession, as in fact you have. We know our worth in terms of what we produce or enable. We don't need a syncophant to play Wormtongue to our Theoden. Rather than muddy the waters in IT you should maybe find a different niche; say The Democratic National Committee.

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On second thought,

by gwcarter In reply to They don't think they nee ...

perhaps you should coach managers who believe a snappy resume or polished language or a congenial disposition are a substitute for skill, experience, and demonstrated results. I know of one manager who feels that object technology is not mature enough for corporate use. Perhaps he would be a marketing target?

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by Plan B In reply to They don't think they nee ...

I'll have to disagree with you on this one GW. I think quite a few people in IT could benefit from coaching. It's not just about being self-assured and producing results - as good as these things are. It seems that the 'human' side of IT people is often absent or buried, and the thought that "because I'm producing, I should be left alone to do my thing" seems too common. I think a number of IT people can use help with their communication skills, their relationship skills, and leading more balanced lives.

I didn't leave the profession because I wasn't producing results. Far from it. My team won numerous awards and were amongst the most highly thought of and well-respected in the company - not an easy thing to do with most IT departments.

And sorry, I'm not a LOTR fan, so your analogy is somewhat lost on me.

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Much better!

by dave.leigh In reply to

(kindly ignore punctuation errors... this is a long post typed into a little window with less time)

There ARE people who need coaching... both managers and lower-level employees. And one of the things that managers need to know is that coaching their employees (i.e. providing direction) is part of their job. However, that's only true to an extent (within reason and constraints), and it's beyond that limit that your services as a coach are valuable. Here's an example:

A project manager such as myself simply cannot (and should not) know every detail of every job under his control. A certain amount of trust has to be vested in the employees that will have to do the actual work. The project manager has to provide the direction and communicate the goals of the project. Specifically, he must clearly communicate specific goals to each employee. He has to elicit feedback to determine whether those goals are realistic, and then evaluate and act on the feedback if necessary.

One of my early projects involved some rather complex changes to a system. It doesn't matter what the changes were, except that they were specific, inflexible mathematical algorithms that were worked out by external subject matter experts. 'Bob' was a senior programmer/analyst assigned to the the team. Once he saw the math involved, 'Bob' had a very difficult time getting motivated to do the work. I worked out the overall structure I had in mind for the system asked him for his estimate on his portion of the work. I always include the team early in the design process if possible, especially if I have to make assumptions for areas with which I'm not familiar (which happens A LOT in this industry).

"Gee, I dunno, this is hard," he'd respond. Now, of course, I didn't know the programming language required for those particular components, but I am an accomplished programmer in other languages. So I described a possible approach made a quick estimate and asked, "Is this approach feasible? Can you do this part in 3 weeks?" 'Bob' replied again with, "Gee, I dunno, this is pretty hard." Several times, to the point where we had to table that part of the discussion and move on with the rest of the team's input.

Now, we have a finite amount of time for estimation and design, and the customer requires some fairly firm numbers for budgeting and SLAs. I'm one who likes to come in under budget, so I'm fairly conservative with estimates, so I'm pretty easy so long as I can still 'sell' the schedule to the client. It's another reason I include the team early if possible... I want THEM to be comfortable with the schedule, too. But repeatedly responding "this is hard" is no way to further the process, especially since everyone else in the team caught on pretty quickly. So my response was to say, "Bob, I know it's hard. You've told me it's hard, and I'm going to take your word for it. Now get past that. HOW hard is it? Is it three weeks worth of hard, or do you think you need more time?"

Now I'd asked for a senior P/A precisely because I needed a team that could work independently. It was pretty clear to me that if we ran into any roadblocks 'Bob' wouldn't even begin to solve them, and I as a manager unfamiliar with that system wouldn't be able to help him. I replaced him with an eager junior programmer from the pool who not only 'got' the design but who saw the task as a challenge rather than an boatload of work he'd rather not do. 'Bob' went on to another project and left the company not long after.

I suppose you could look at this as a 'pointy-haired boss' episode with me in the starring role, but the fact of the matter is that NO IT manager on a cross-platform project is going to know every aspect of every system. That's why we carefully select team members. That's why we hire programmer/analysts and not typists. And that's why we ask for input from the team early, to check assumptions, refine the estimates and the design, and make changes before we're locked into a budget. I absolutely HAVE to trust the team, and I don't have the luxury of blaming any one of them if they can't pull their weight. It's my job to recognize and fix those sorts of problems. But as a manager I'm in charge of delivering results... I have the time to provide direction, but I can't hold the hand of a team member who's job description clearly indicates he should be able to deliver to a certain standard. I have to direct and assess his performance in accordance with that standard.

IF the corporation had a coaching program, I'd have recommended 'Bob' for inclusion. Frankly, I don't think he should have been promoted to Sr.P/A without the ability to analyze the requirements he's given and to estimate his own ability to deliver. It's possible that he needed assertiveness training. It's possible he needed some exercise in focus or prioritization. Maybe he felt better suited to another career, or perhaps he had a bloody medical condition. I don't know. The fact is he didn't indicate anything of the sort even when asked, and once I get to the "throw me a bone" stage, I've got to move on with my own priorities and not feel guilty about his.

If you're a 'Bob' or you know a 'Bob' then it's possible that Plan B or something like it is just the ticket. Also, I might recommend seminars for people on a promotional track to help ensure that 'Bobs' don't get promoted above their abilities... or better yet, that they have gained the necessary abilities before they're promoted.

But consider this. If 'Bob' does lack assertiveness then he might just be too timid to do that on his own. If 'Bob' is a manager promoted through the Peter Principle, then he might be afraid to go to a 'coach' because his own manager might find out and wonder why a decision-maker has to go somewhere else to help him make decisions. That's where selling it to HR and trickling the idea down through upper management is a good idea. It may be that for some organizations a coaching 'leg up' is a more cost-effective investment than firing somebody and training a new employee from scratch.

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Coaching non-IT IT person would better...

by RayJeff In reply to I want to coach IT people ...

Going from the posts, working with non-IT IT persons would be a better area to coach/train in.
"non-IT IT" or any other term that has bene used in the posts means a person who has an IT position or does IT-type work but does not have the IT background. These are the persons who really need the coaching moreso than any other person who does IT-type work. They are the ones that really need the encouragement and the self-assuredness.

Not to say that there couldn't be a time when IT people may not need coaching, but non-IT persons are the ones.

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More like

by rob mekel In reply to Coaching non-IT IT person ...

giving the "non-IT" IT person an IT training is what you seem to promote to me. In other words educate the "non-IT" employees in the IT-field.

That is not all what coaching is about, it can be part of coaching but there is more.
Coaching is about getting your goals straight, developing your skills as a person and professional, getting better at your job AND knowing why that is.


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So, it comes back to the question of...

by RayJeff In reply to More like

whether it is "better" to coach IT persons. From what I'm reading (and understanding correctly) is that everyone isn't fully opposed to the idea of coaching IT persons, but how much would it actually benefit IT persons. Plan B, who composed the question wants to know how best to go about doing that in order to coach IT persons.

What I offered as an opinion and maybe one of two others is that Plan B coaches IT in a field outside of IT. My rationale for my post is that non-IT persons would be more receptive to a coach or coaching than persons who are in IT. It seems like Plan B is frustrated in the fact of trying to be coach IT persons. What offered was just an opinion.

"That is not all what coaching is about, it can be part of coaching but there is more.
Coaching is about getting your goals straight, developing your skills as a person and professional, getting better at your job AND knowing why that is."

So, are you saying that going into another field IT coaching isn't a viable alternative? Is not developing the non-IT person's skills not in trun helping to develop the IT coaches' skills as a person and a professional? Maybe I'm just seeing this in a different way.

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coaching, generally

by rob mekel In reply to So, it comes back to the ...

Coaching isn't bound to any profession nor has it limitations to whatever field your activities are in professional or leisure time (to me leisure time is all the time not being on the job [and actually time on the job is fun/leisure time for me as well :) ]).

What I tried to say is that coaching is not only about your knowledge-expertise brought up to a higher level but also making you aware of what other skills you need to be a professional (co)worker in whatever field y're working on or of the job.

What I did gather from your first answer I made up that you meant it was "better? to coach "non-IT"IT persons then IT persons.
As Plan B has made a choice to be a coach for IT-persons (whether skilled at IT or not) it isn't the question who he wants to coach but how he can reach to those in the IT-field that want to be coached, make IT-workers (whether skilled at IT or not) aware of the possibility of being coached.

I agree with you that non-IT workers are maybe more open (more easily to reach) to the idea of coaching. This due to, generally spoken, the fact that IT-workers are more intro- then extravert and work from strong knowledge based skills.

In the strong changing field of IT (from technical/knowledge to business driven) customer(in- or external)relation and communication skills are getting more and more important (and a lot of other skills as well )
On training you get to know about those skills but there is more to them then knowing about the technics of the skills.
A coach can be helpful on determing and developing the minor developed skills you(generally spoken) have.

That is what I tried to make clear.


edited for format

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by RayJeff In reply to coaching, generally

Gotcha.... :-)

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