Aim for the “Goldilocks Zone”: 3 Coaching Tips to Change Behaviors

Ask any member of your management team if they are interested in professional development, and the answer you would get back is a resounding, “yes!” 

But as any workplace development pro knows, while managers say they are interested in honing their skills, growing their careers, and making more money — getting them to engage and change behaviors through professional development can be a challenge. 

Frank Rowe, Managing Partner of Cecond Opinion, offers 3 ways to set your management team up for success, and ensure that the leaders coaching them aren’t wasting their valuable time:

  1. Aim for the Goldilocks Zone of Professional Development

Managers who have set their sites on the next tier of their career may say they want to get outside their comfort zone, but Rowe says people actually learn best when leaders push them into what he calls the Goldilocks Zone of professional development. Not too far outside, but not too far within their comfort zone. 

How can leaders understand the boundaries of a front-line manager’s comfort zone? Rowe recommends beginning the process of individualized professional development by listening.  Taking a deep dive into a manager’s past experience can not only bring up behavior patterns that need to be changed, but relating previous successes and failures to current workplace situations can help managers connect the dots and become more engaged in the professional development process.

According to Rowe, “strong leaders have a higher level of Emotional Intelligence.” That Emotional Intelligence should be used to listen and “read” the manager they are coaching. A change in body language and tone can mean a leader is pushing a manager too far outside of their comfort zone and exiting the Goldilocks Zone.

  1. Create Coaching Goals Using 360-Degree Feedback

Rowe recommends asking the manager’s team and colleagues for honest feedback on the manager’s professional performance. Why? Because it’s one thing for a manager to understand what areas they need to work on to be more successful, and it’s another thing for a manager to hear it straight from co-workers. 

During his long career in professional development, Rowe has noticed a trend. “Nine times out of ten, people are not surprised by the feedback they receive from colleagues; in fact, it often aligns with what they already know about themselves. What is surprising is that other people think that way about them, or see them the way that they do — even though the feedback totally rings true.” 

Getting 360-degree feedback from a manager’s team and colleagues is key to not only developing personalized coaching goals, but to getting buy-in from the manager.  

Rowe recommends that 360-degree feedback be gathered not just before professional development begins, but also be done periodically as a spot check on behavior change and progress towards development goals because “the best evidence of changed behavior comes from co-workers.” 

  1. Create a Culture of Insatiable Learning

Rowe would like to remind executives that helping front-line management reach their goals goes beyond individualized professional development. “The organization as a whole should aim to create a learning culture. The best leaders are the insatiable learners. Being an insatiable learner requires humility, a mindset of learning and constructive feedback.” 

Want to hear more? Listen in as Frank Rowe joins Sciolytix CMO, Dario Priolo, on the Disruptors & Innovators podcast.


Dario Priolo
Author: Dario Priolo

Dario brings over 20 years of experience in the sales enablement and talent development industry. He has led marketing and strategy as CMO for leading companies like the Hay Group, Miller Heiman and Profiles International and has been part of 4 successful exits, including his own start-up.