Coaching Minorities

November 9th, 2014, by Francia Guzman, Managing Director, FBG Consulting

 

Coaching is meant to be transformational and inspiring. In most of the cases it is. However when you add to it the mix of diversity it becomes extremely complex. As minorities we are many times impacted by our status. Whether we like it or not, we use the behaviors of our minorities as reference points (e.g. I’m Hispanic so I make an extra effort not to arrive late, because people tend to think of my ethnicity as one that is flexible with time). Perhaps life experiences make you react differently, but for those who have not been able to completely erase these roadblocks, it’s important to know.

Knowing how to tailor your coaching practice to be more effective with your minority coachee will make you more effective. Here are a few examples:

  • Coachee A: has been transitioning through jobs and countries to “prove herself”. She expresses she has done more than most women and now feels challenged to prove herself better than men as she shows she is strong and effective.
  • Coachee B: is an engineer and doesn’t know about “soft stuff”, so to show him the patterns I find in our conversations, I present them in a sort of diagram. This helps him get it immediately
  • Coachee C: is hesitant to speak up in meetings, for fear of being noticed too much, since she is gay and not “out” with all of her peers. She wants to progress, but these thoughts push her to a behavior that holds her back
  • Coachee D: He was called names in school because he’s African American. This has impacted his self-worth and confidence and of course that is reflected in his performance today.

So here are a few tips to remember:

1-    People are naturally anxious about opening up and this can be more complex with minorities (e.g. fitting in, rejection, insecurities, acceptance)

2-    Coaching is meant to LISTEN (but minorities may struggle with not being heard or not being heard loud enough), INSPIRE (but minorities may struggle with not daring to go where they’re inspired to go) and TRANSFORM (but minorities may struggle with transforming themselves for fear of losing who they are)

3-    Help your coachee ACCEPT (but minorities may be afraid of acknowledging who they are because it makes them different and brands them), VALUE (but minorities have a hard time exposing themselves and feeling a sense of pride in being different when everyone is trying to fit in) or USING (minorities may be shy in marketing their uniqueness, selling who they are for the value they bring) their minority status

4-    People react to feelings and feeling drives behavior, so go to the root of the feelings

5-    It’s important to teach them how to use their instincts without letting negative thoughts hold them back

6-    Know that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, so coach minorities the way you would anyone else

The important thing to remember as a coach is that you are better equipped to guide your minority coachee when you understand their minority status. Show them you BELIEVE in them, TRUST them, and INVEST in them and that you expect the same from them.