The Foundation For Coaching: A Philosophy of Human Nature

The Foundation For Coaching:  A Philosophy of Human Nature

This is Part II of a three part series on Coaching

Recently I asked several people to tell me about their favorite boss.  “What was it you loved about them?” I asked.  Here are some answers:

“My favorite boss is the one I have right now.  He makes time to have quick conversations with us.  He is a good listener who recognizes employee achievements. He is always honest and transparent with all the staff and never favors anyone.”

“My best boss, although knowledgeable, was not an expert in my field.  He relied on me and often expressed his appreciation for what I brought to the table.  I noticed that he treated everyone this way…as if they were valuable.  I’m not trying to make him sound like he was a push-over or always in a good mood, but he never brought his problems to work like some of my bosses have done.” 

This one was interesting!

“My worst boss was arrogant, rude and acted superior.  She seemed to look down on us and didn’t listen to our opinions.  She made us feel like we didn’t count and got angry if we dared challenge or contradict her.”

I shared with him that I had asked for comments about his favorite boss, but instead he told me about his worst.  He hesitated and said: “Hmm, I guess I needed to get that off my chest.  She really made my life miserable!”

And finally, one of the most poignant answers came from a woman with whom I had a long conversation.  She had worked for two municipalities for a total of 51 years and was only a week away from retirement.

“Most of the bosses I’ve had have been mediocre,” she said 

I asked her if there was anything they had in common.

“Yes, I think so.  They didn’t rely on us the way they could have.  I don’t believe down deep they really saw us as valuable.  Oh, they were all good people.  It’s not like they were mean-spirited or abusive or anything, but when I think about my best bosses, they had a different attitude from the ones who weren’t as good.  The best ones seemed to believe that we were to be trusted to do the right things, and to give it our best.  So, for these bosses I believe we did.”    

I believe these comments pinpoint something that is unique among outstanding bosses:  a positive philosophy of human nature that serves to guide their actions and interactions with others.   With no doubt some variation, I believe these individuals believe in the power of encouragement, trust, integrity, and interdependence.  Perhaps their philosophy can be summarized by the following three beliefs:

1) People are fundamentally good and desire to make a difference in the bigger scheme of things.

2) People respond positively to feeling valued.

3) If valued, people will rise up to meet the challenge and do what is right.

Every great organization lives by a mission on the way to a vision of something for the future.  So too do great bosses have a philosophy of human nature that guides them in their interactions.  Without this philosophy, their leadership—including coaching skills—will be shallow or inconsistent depending upon their mood or what is happening around them at the time.  It is our premise that leaders who embrace this philosophy will naturally employ the vital coaching skills we discuss in Part III.

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