Recognize Opportunities to Coach
As leaders, we are “wired” to want to fix problems, and we enjoy sharing our knowledge and ideas to help our staff improve and accomplish both individual and company goals. Certainly, telling employees how to do their jobs correctly is one way to get results. But in the end, it’s far more important to recognize teachable moments with our team members, those opportunities in which asking them questions and encouraging them to come up with the answers becomes the far more effective approach. Why? Because it’s just as much our responsibility to develop our people as it is to problem-solve and push productivity. While developing staff through coaching opportunities can reap rewards that make a more sustainable difference, this tactic will empower your people with sharper skills, new strengths and greater confidence in their jobs.
Here are three examples of opportunities in which it pays to coach:
When your staff member is missing goals. You may well know why Susan, one of your direct reports, is not achieving a Vital goal. But if you tell her why, she might simply hear the reason versus truly understand — and care about — its root cause. And the root cause is what you’re after because that’s what she will need to acknowledge, own (if it is indeed something for which she is responsible), and address through corrective action. The best way to instill that understanding and help her get to the heart of the matter is through discovery questions. Instead of inquiring about “what” happened, asking Susan “why” she failed to get to her goals will start a reflective discussion. The more “whys” that are asked, the deeper she will dig, and the closer to both truths and solutions she will get.
When your staff member struggles with managing relationships. Business is all about people, yet it’s a fact of life that certain people struggle with relationships. So if you recognize that Bill has trouble dealing with a difficult co-worker in a group project, don’t just remove him from the group but take that opportunity as a chance to coach him on how to handle that person in certain situations. Ask “why” questions to determine if there’s a root cause to the friction, help him determine on his own how well he has managed the conflict thus far, and then share insights and stories of your own experiences that might illustrate how you’ve overcome such relationship roadblocks in the past. Keep in mind, when a difficult co-worker gets the best of another, company morale may be at risk. It can also be a career derailer for the staff members involved as well as for yourself. If you’re a leader who cannot find adequate ways to empower your employees to get along, you may eventually be perceived as weak, out of touch and negligent. As tricky or uncomfortable as it may be at times, empowering staff members to manage their relationships successfully is a pain that’s worth the gain. Tackling this common issue with conscientious coaching tactics can turn a losing situation into a win-win for all.
When your staff member is looking for a solution. If you’ve followed other MAP blogs, you’ll notice this is a recurring topic, yet one that bears repeating: Certain staff members will sometimes hit a wall and not know what to do. For example, maybe your assistant, Mary, has a habit of running to you in the hopes of getting quick solutions to her problems. While it’s a common tendency to want to rescue such people (perhaps it’s a small “thrill” to offer quick, proven solutions), resist the temptation. In such situations, slow down, get Mary to find her own answers by asking those critical “why” questions, and enable her own enlightenment by guiding her in that journey of self-development. If you decide to impart examples, lessons learned, or stories that might help in this discovery process, just avoid making the moment about you. Always tie back any example to what Mary is experiencing or the situation at hand, keeping the spotlight on this staff member who both needs and likely deserves it.
Final note: Taking a little time to coach your staff individually, particularly toward the end of the year and around the holidays, is a great “gift” worth giving and a way for your workers to feel rewarded and appreciated. Be careful that this self-development session doesn’t feel like a performance review but is a real opportunity to give some unique, one-on-one coaching and attention.
What are some other opportunities in which it’s beneficial to coach?