Put Me In, Coach! Guiding Your Employees To New Heights

Put Me In Coach! Guiding Your Employees To New HeightsIt’s the season to talk about coaching success, from the Super Bowl to the NCAA Basketball Tournament to the opening of the baseball season. In any successful endeavor from the playing field to the Board Room, it is the coach who guides the talented players on the team to winning seasons—and winning careers. Every manager should be a coach, but the time and effort can seem overwhelming. With all the responsibilities already on your agenda, how do you take on one more role? Finding time for coaching the people who report to you can fall by the wayside as you are sidetracked by the urgency of daily deadlines.

Just like that Super Bowl coach, you need to make coaching a priority. Your employees want to grow and succeed—they want to score those goals and lead the team. It is your job to make that happen. That drive to succeed is your not-so-secret weapon! According to the Harvard Business Review, the most powerful motivating condition at work is “making progress at something that is personally meaningful.” As the team coach, your goal is to ignite that motivation in each person and build visible, tangible connections between your employee’s assignments and your organization’s mission and values. It begins with an understanding of each staff member: what engages them, what drives them and what they want to achieve. This is definitely not a “one size fits all” endeavor! Coaching is a very individual process. There are three key concepts to make it work.

Listen, Listen, Listen: the coaching conversation is not about you! As a manager, it is easy to be directive. You are an expert; you are accustomed to being “in charge.” In this conversation, think of yourself as an educator, a teacher with the goal of making your employee both successful and self-sufficient. That means using all active listening skills available. Start with an openended question. What you say or ask is less important than listening to the intent behind the words of your employee’s response. Your ability to listen carefully will build trust, a crucial facet of any relationship.  This includes attention to what is NOT said, like body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Ideas will emerge that may not be your own, but may be an answer to an organizational objective. Listen, don’t judge.

Facilitate: when your employee articulates an idea that you both agree is one to move forward, make sure that you provide the resources to make it happen. This doesn’t necessarily mean extra dollars. It can mean removing organizational road blocks, such as “we’ve never done it that way,” or guiding the employee on ways to free up time to pursue the idea. “Maybe you can take two hours every Tuesday morning to work on this.” Or, “when can you free up some time?  What do you need to make that happen?” Help the employee concentrate on the big picture—acknowledge small impediments and work with your employee to find solutions. Once again, ask the questions that lead to answers. Don’t offer the solution yourself.

Results: set clear project guidelines for reporting progress and results. Let your employee define, with your approval, what success will look like. Make sure that you give permission to fail. Not every project or idea will succeed, and sometimes more learning can take place in an open discussion of why and how things didn’t work—without blame or recrimination—than when something is an easy win. Provide opportunities for the employee to share results with the team, the organization or even your profession. Articles, presentations, blog posts, and data sets can all articulate achievement. Give public credit for a job well done—let your employee enjoy the moment!

Effective coaching builds performance and ability for both of you. Your employee learns new skills and becomes a more effective leader. This has clear benefits for not just this employee but the future of your organization. What’s in it for you? Coaching builds stronger bonds between you and your employee and builds confidence for future successes. It can re-energize your own career through mentoring and passing on your knowledge to a new generation.

Effective coaching is not necessarily a skill that comes naturally. Each manager must learn the listening and effective feedback techniques that create the positive energy for these all-important conversations. Sometimes, the coach needs a little coaching to be the best facilitator of employee success. The Singer Group has the expertise to work with your organization to build coaching skills and confidence in your management team. Call us today!

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