Coaching is a key part of your core responsibilities as an effective manager and leader on your teams. And just because you may have coached a high school soccer team does not mean that you are equipped to coach your direct reports in the office. Coaching takes practice and constant checking in with yourself and your coachee. Here are some ways to improve your coaching skills in the work environment.
1. Create a safe environment. In order to coach someone you need them to trust you. If you haven’t had a good rapport with this person in the past, you have some catching up to do. Start learning more about them, asking about their interests outside of work, and looking for commonalities between the two of you that you can see eye to eye on.
2. Set up an informal routine. Coaching is about conversations and setting up regular communication with your coachee. This shouldn’t only consist of a formal weekly check-in, although that can help. Find informal ways to connect such as getting coffee together, taking breaks, going for walks, or connecting over happy hour.
3. Align interests to goals & objectives. It is important to guide your coachee in identifying their strengths and genuine interests when it comes to being successful at their job. The end goal for you is to get them to be highly engaged in delivering great services and products. Learn more about what motivates your coachee at work (new projects, perfecting a new process, visibility from higher ups, etc.). Then offer them opportunities that connect their interests to their core role and responsibilities.
4. Listen and observe. This is the most important part--when you are in conversation with your coachee, you should be doing less than 20% of the talking! Things to keep in mind - avoid multi-tasking, show engaged body language (eye contact, nodding your head, smiling...etc.), try to see it from their perspective, and clear your own objectives. Avoid the temptation to steer the conversation in one direction of the other. Give your coachee full freedom to drive the conversation. If you find they are not talking, try step 5.
5. Ask the HOW and WHAT questions. Your job is to ask open ended questions and get them to solve their own problems and come up with new ideas. Questions such as, “How will you deal with the next client?” “What is your thinking process when you don’t know the answer right away.” “What steps will you take to prepare for this upcoming presentation?” If your coachee says, “I don’t know…” don’t take that as their final word. Ask them, “What would you say if you knew?” or ask them to think of a few options before you put in your two cents.
6. Appreciate good work. A sad statistic: over 60% of employees don’t remember being appreciated for their work. It is not enough to say, “Good job on that presentation!” What a good coach will do is focus on a trait/skill that the coachee implemented and how it helped achieve a better result. For example, “Thank you for your persistence in working with that difficult client. Because of your hard work, you were able to come up with a mutually beneficial solution for our team and the client, and we gained another loyal customer.”
7. Prepare for constructive feedback. Building regular informal conversations into your coaching strategy will pay off when/if you have to provide feedback that is focused on getting someone to improve something. Because your coachee will be used to you providing regular feedback (usually appreciative feedback) the difficult conversations should not seem so hard. Remember that when you provide critical feedback:
8. State the issue clearly; state the facts; avoid pointing fingers by using "you" statements; provide specific examples; and state your recommendation with specific follow-up steps. If possible, create success metrics with your coachee so that you both will know when the goal is reached
9. Be open to feedback yourself. Have you encouraged your coachee to provide you feedback on your managerial style? If not, give it a try and check yourself. Are you likely to get defensive? Are you able to ask for clarification if something is not clear. What is your body language saying when someone gives you feedback? Can you coach your direct report into becoming an excellent coach as well?
This is just the beginning of developing yourself into an effective coach. More tips and tools will be coming in the next few weeks on each of these steps!