The Greatest Pitfall For A Coach Or Mentor

The greatest pitfall for a Coach or Mentor

Greatest Pitfall for a Coach or Mentor - Prabhaker Panditi

.Image Courtesy – Frits Ahlefeldt,

How to get noticed

Picture this: the teacher asks a question to a group of school children. One of the students blurts out the answer immediately. “Good. Very good” acknowledges the teacher.

The student learned an important lesson.  To get recognized, you need to jump in, be the first, seize the opportunity … as quick as light. Over the next few years, this lesson would be reinforced time and again; in the playground, during cultural events, in the college canteen.


What’s wrong?

This  Me-First, I-Know-IT  attitude may be helpful in some situations or for some roles.  For a coach or mentor, however, it will be a liability.

Despite the difference between the two roles, both demand some self-restraint.   You need to give space to the Coachee or Mentee, to let her discover things.  Dishing out solutions robs them of the chance to explore, to deep dive, to reflect.

Tips for a Mentor or Coach

Here are some tips to stop yourself from blurting out solutions quickly:

  1. Don’t jump immediately into problem solving mode. Give time for the Coachee or Mentee discover solutions.
  2. Play the “role” of a coach during your coaching sessions! When you are actually coach, why role-play?   Because our inherent attitudes and impulses some times take over. Reminding yourself of your “role” is a good way to overcome such impulses.
  3. Active listening techniques  can be helpful. If employed mechanically, however, interactions become artificial and degenerate into ‘acting’ listening.
  4. The old-fashioned counting to ten or taking a few deep breaths can be surprisingly useful.  “Sounds simple, but counting to ten is an anger management tip that has worked for centuries!”
  5. Be aware of your internal judge, a tendency to continuously categorize inputs into good and bad.
  6. In addition to what is said, focus on how it is being said and what is not said as well. Notice also the subtle emotional cues.

The above techniques keep your focus where it belongs: on the Coachee.

  • pragati says:

    Hi prabhaker,

    This is an excellent post. It is so easy to get ahead of yourself. I think this ‘me first’ trait is highly prevalent amongst us Indians because we have grown up in such a competitive society. Since childhood we are taught to be on our toes, lest the other person move ahead and win the race.

    So being a coach can certainly be a ‘shift’.


    May 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm
  • admin says:

    Hi Pragati,
    It is interesting that you mention ‘Indians’. You are right. Culture and environment can affect our tendencies. This is an useful reference point for any Coach to see if his or her behavior is being so influenced.

    May 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

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