First hold them capable…then hold them accountable!

A frequent insight into leaders as they learn nondirective coaching skills is the concept of holding people capable first and then helping them find accountability.

Defining Holding People Capable:

In non directive coaching, the concept of holding your client capable simply means working from the assumption that the person you are coaching is capable of solving the issue by themselves…they don’t need our advice, direction or help to solve the problem.

Holding People Capable at Work:

A recent executive, working his way through the journey of learning nondirective coaching, commented that this was the missing ingredient of his leadership. He was always good at holding people accountable, however, he rarely started from a place of holding them capable first. Yet changing to this new perspective actually reduced his personal workload. In his words, when he held people capable first, the outcome was distinctly better than when he used a directive coaching perspective. Not only did his staff respond better, their quality of work also improved.

It is easy to self-reflect and see times when we don’t start from the perspective of holding people capable. The “aha” moment comes when we realize how quickly we abandon capability and switch to directing or teaching instead. The challenge in our thinking is that we often stop seeing people as capable the moment we see (or think we see) something that they have missed or not considered. But this is such a missed opportunity. New perspectives and information come into the conversation when we stay in that “holding someone capable” space.


Holding People Capable at Home:

Our daughter Danielle recently shared a great example of how powerful it can be to stay in that place of capability with her three-year-old daughter Jayda and her husband Brett on a long road trip.

They were driving along and Danielle was enjoying a nice conversation and download session with her introverted husband. As Danielle (a mother of three) was basking it those rare moments of peaceful interchange with Brett, Jayda exclaimed fairly loudly “Daddy Stop Talking!”.

Danielle was shocked and paused for a moment considering what to do. Drawing on her coach training she decided to ask a question.

To be clear, we never trained her to do this, in our days as parents we would have assumed that Jayda needed to learn how to be polite and well mannered. We would have likely told her to quit being rude and apologize to her daddy. Yet, Danielle’s response was “Jayda how could you say that so we could better understand what you want”?

There was a long pause and then a small, sad voice asked: “Daddy could you be my friend too?”

Danielle had held Jayda capable and instead of what could have been a moment of teaching and discipline. Of course, not all situations are with somebody who is capable. We may well need to shift to directive coaching or teaching if the person is truly incapable in that specific situation. However, the potential value we miss here is starting from the incapable place or dropping into it so easily that we miss the opportunity of holding them capable first.

Your Turn:

We would love to hear your thoughts or stories on holding people capable! It is such a powerful coaching concept and one that is too easily dropped in favour of assuming a helping, advising or telling role. Contact us today to learn more about this coaching concept and how it can transform the way you lead at home and in your organization.

About the Author
MArj Busse Marj Busse is a partner at Essential Impact, an award-winning coaching company. She has been a Master Certified Coach for over 17 years and is a lead faculty member at the Royal Roads Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching program. Along with her team, Marj has helped hundreds of companies in a wide variety of industries implement a coaching culture.

2017-12-12T07:41:39-08:00December 5th, 2017|