Stop Fixing, Start Coaching

December 17th, 2012 | Coaching
Excerpted from chapter 11 with the permission of the author & publisher of Work Happy – What Great Bosses Know by Jill Geisler

I’ve discovered among the many managers I’ve encountered:

There are too few coaches and too many fixers.

Fixers aren’t bad bosses mind you.  They are responsible managers who care about quality, but they do far more telling than teaching.  If there were a Fixer’s Creed, it would be this:

Bring me your problems and I will give you solutions.  Show me your work and I will improve it, even if it means doing it for you.  It’s my duty as a boss.

Fixers get the job done, but through micromanagement and control .  Coaches learn to let go of all that and achieve even better results.  How do I know?  As I tell the managers in my workshops:

“I stand before you as a recovering fixer.  If I could learn to be a coach, so can you.”

Three Sins of Fixers

  • Your more capable employees are frustrated.  You take their good work and add your signature touches to it.  Is it better?  Probably.  But now it’s not really theirs anyone – and you’ve undercut their important motivators:  competence, progress, and autonomy. And don’t assume everything’s cool because  they’ve never complained.  It’s not that easy to criticize the boss..
  • Your less capable employees are protected.  They don’t have to grow because you’re always there to fill their gaps.  Their mediocre work actually looks pretty nice after you’ve tidied it up.  You’ve trained them to rely on you to rescue them, and now they assume it’s your responsibility.
  • You get worn down.  It’s tiring to be a fixer.  You spend way too much time putting out brushfires in the daily workflow and not enough on strategy, long-range planning, innovation – or even thinking.  And you just can’t figure out why some staffers still need help for the same issues, in spite  of all your hard work.

That last point is very important.  Being a fixer can lead to burnout.  I want you to take better care of yourself.  So I did just a little bit of editing ot hammer home my message.  I fixed the Fixer’s Creed:

The Coach’s Creed:

Bring me your problems and I will help you discover your own solutions.  Show me your work and I will improve it by coaching, but I won’t do it for you.  It’s my duty as a boss.

I think that’s a change for the better.  What do you think, coach?

Jill Geisler, as head of Poynter Institute Leadership and Management programs, guides managers from the novice to the veteran – toward success.  In Poynter-based seminars, offsite workshops and within organizations, she brings humor and humanity to her teaching and coaching.  She has conducted specialized training and coaching programs for scores of organizations in the U.S. and abroad and is in demand as a speaker on leadership issues, ethics, change management and the status of women in leadership.

You can find out more about Jill and her book at:  Work Happy.

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4 thoughts on “Stop Fixing, Start Coaching

  1. Pam Smith says:

    OK, I’ll admit it: I, too, am a recovering fixer. At one time it was valued by and in fact encouraged by those in senior management. However, once I discovered the beauty of “what else could you try?” there was no turning back! :o)

  2. Jill Geisler says:

    Amen, Pam. Once we learn how to coach, as you did, it’s not just effective, it’s fun. To see people develop their own solutions via effective questions, then to back them up when they take initiative, is a true joy! When I teach coaching in seminars and workshops, I do it with interactive exercises that let people discover the power of coaching — by doing it! Wishing you peace and joy in this season — Jill

  3. Jill, thanks so much for joining the conversation! Your excerpt is getting a huge response today – thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us all!

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