By Marie Snidow, SPHR, Certified Master Coach
Why should managers make it a priority to coach their employees, and how can they incorporate it into their day-to-day duties?
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
Tim Gallwey, Author and creator of the “Inner Game” coaching methodology
If you are like most managers leading employees and teams today, you are probably challenged by heavy workloads and shifting priorities at work. “Coaching employees” may have dropped to the bottom of your priority list because you say to yourself “I simply don’t have time to coach people. I need to get things done.”
As a leader and manager, you get work done through others, so coaching employees and teams on the job is probably the single most important thing you can do to be a successful leader and to achieve company goals and objectives. But what exactly is involved in the coaching process, and how does my team, both as a whole and individually, benefit?
Why make time to coach? Your team will thrive.
1) One of the top 3 reasons employees cite for leaving a job or company is their relationship with their manager. If you are actively coaching your team, you’ll build a stronger relationship with them, and they’ll be more engaged at work because you are focused on helping them be successful in their current job and in their career. Coaching develops your employee and creates lower turnover and more engaged teams.
2) Coaching employees helps you evaluate their skill level and motivation and understand their capabilities and career goals. You’ll be able to delegate work more often and more effectively because you’ll know which employees will benefit the most from which assignments.
3) Employees receiving your coaching will thrive and achieve more. They will execute projects with a higher level of success and will be more aligned with company goals. It’s a win-win!
How do I find the time? It’s easier than you think.
You might coach more often if you realize that coaching can be done “in the moment” and can take as little as 7 minutes. I train managers to coach employees in sessions that last 7-15 minutes and they are achieving amazing results. Here’s how you can do the same.
Start with a coaching mindset: Think about the employee as being a very capable person who can and will have many ideas about how problems can be solved. Your job as a coach is to ask good questions to help them arrive at the best answer…not to tell them the answer.
But it isn’t all about questions. Use this simple 5-step coaching model to frame your coaching sessions:
Step 1: Recognize Opportunities for Coaching
Employees bring problems and issues to you all day that require solving. When you have at least seven minutes, and when the issue being presented does not have just one clear solution, you should coach. Resist the temptation to tell them how you would approach the problem. Seize the moment and say “Let’s explore this situation for a few minutes and see what your options are”. Let THEM solve the problem.
Step 2: Assess the Situation.
Let the employee describe the situation that is occurring. They are likely to also share the nature of the problem, what aspects of the problem they are confused about, and where they have experienced roadblocks.
Step 3: Define the Actual Problem.
Don’t assume you understand the problem in its entirety. Ask the employee to describe the situation in just a few sentences. State what the problem is from your perspective and ask for clarity: “If I understand you correctly, you are trying to identify where things are falling through the cracks and how to revise the process. Is that right?” Defining the issue for coaching helps both of you align in solving the same problem.
Step 4: Brainstorm Possible Options.
In most cases, there are several possible approaches people can take to any given problem. Let the employee explore the problem by asking, “What are possible options?” While they may instinctively respond by saying they don’t know, encourage them to think the problem through. You can engage in brainstorming to come up with several possible options. Help them to evaluate the best option by asking them to explore out loud the potential upsides and downsides for each option.
Step 5: Agree to a Plan of Action.
Once they have explored the pros and cons for each potential solution, ask them, “Which option do you think would work best?” You can add your input, but as much as possible, try to let the employee arrive at their own solution. Once they’ve chosen the best solution, help them clarify what actions they need to take and by when. You can check back in with them at a later date to see how it went. At that time, you can coach them further if needed.
This same simple 5-step coaching model can be used when working with an entire team or group faced with any problem or issue at work. Building the habit of looking for coaching opportunities will help you build more engaged and resourceful teams.
You can practice your coaching skills with your peers in Marie Snidow’s course, Coaching as a Leadership Strategy, which is offered throughout the year through the Center for Professional Education.
Marie Snidow, SPHR is an instructor for the Center for Professional Education and Sr. Consultant and Founder of Albright Snidow, a talent management firm providing employers with a full range of services designed to develop high potential talent, emerging leaders and senior leaders.
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