Step Three: Respond to Gaps in Coaching Practice

Think of your coaching team. Would you say that most of them entered the field to be helpers? Do they take pride in their ability to connect with others and learn their stories? Do they hope to support others in creating a vision for meaningful behavior change? Are they generally great at inspiring people? If you said "yes" to all of these questions, your experiences working with health coaches align with ours.

Coaches usually don't generally intend to slip up. When Superusers aren't responsive to coaching performance problems, recurring mistakes can start to reduce the confidence and motivation of your coaching team.  Since coaching happens in an interconnected system, and slip ups can be caused by many different factors, the job of the Superuser is to give relevant and timely feedback to get coaches feeling great about what they do best: changing patients lives.

When you notice your coaching team not hitting their marks, remember that coaching mistakes are not usually intentional and will represent one of three predictable areas: skill-based, rule-based, and knowledge-based mistakes. Armed with this information, you'll know how to respond to get your team on track.

You can read on about the different types of mistakes below, or jump straight to downloading the Coaching Mistakes and Responses sheet to get started on identifying responses to bring back to your team. 

What are skill-based mistakes?

Skill-based mistakes really "shouldn't" happen because they represent skills your coaches know how to do, but aren't performing as expected. These types of mistakes happen all the time in life and are part being human. They almost always occur through the presence of distraction. Here's a real-life example. Most of us are capable of removing a carton of milk and then returning it back to a refrigerator. Yet, this simple task can still go wrong! You might experience:

A Slip: Your mind wanders and you accidentally put the milk in the pantry instead of the fridge. 

A Lapse: Your mind wanders and walk away from the milk, forgetting to put it away.

A Fumble: Your mind wanders, you lose grip, and drop the milk all over the floor. 

If you've done any of these things before, chances are, you are not "bad" at putting milk away, nor are you incapable of it! Distraction got in the way. You might realize your mistake instantly (when you see the milk all over the floor) or much later (when you get home from work and see milk still on the counter), but the solution will always be the same: you must overcome the internal or external obstacles that make it hard to be mindful in doing what you know how to do.

What are rule-based mistakes?

Rule-based mistakes happen when coaches don't execute on ready-made solutions (or rules) provided to them through training, experience, or procedures. An example is not following workflows or performance standards. Reasons why rule-based errors occur include: 

  • The rules were learned impartially or incorrectly
  • Rules were misapplied in the moment, or
  • The coach decided not to follow a rule

It can be tempting to use training to solve these types of mistakes. Sometimes, more training is what's needed. However, if training has already occurred, something else may be making it difficult for coaches to transfer their learning into the real world. It's important to figure out what that could be before giving more resources to training. 

What are knowledge-based mistakes? 

When coaches need to call on their knowledge base, they are likely being faced by new conditions. Using Twine to engage in continuous coaching has shown to be one of these new conditions for coaches.

In many cases, your organization won't yet have "rules" to guide practice in Twine. This is okay and part of the process! Coaches need proper access to information, space to be creative with their practice (including making and talking about mistakes), and structure from leadership to turn recurring knowledge-based mistakes into innovative solutions or rules for the entire team to improve upon their care.

Being aware of this type of mistake is especially important for teams with less experienced coaches. Without adequate feedback and support, new coaches in particular have no ability to evaluate if their knowledge-based responses match those of their peers, or if they're being effective toward the overall organizational goals. 



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