We’ve all experienced a coaching session and written evaluations. As you think back on your best and worst experiences, what stands out?
Have you left a coaching session and/or evaluation meeting feeling motivated to achieve more and innovate more? Do these meetings challenge you to perform at your best?
Or do you leave wondering why your manager didn’t mention your recent initiative that demonstrated outstanding results? Or you leave wondering where you need to improve because your manager is not giving you any suggestions – “Keep at it…”
If you manage a team, you must find ways to make the INVESTMENT of time in individual team members more meaningful.
Do they deserve your (the manager’s) praise? Then tell them and be specific! Document it. Remind them of their great work. A praised person will progressively perform at their pinnacle.
Do they need guidance? Ask them better questions which will help them discover their path. Don’t always tell. Ask more. Engage the team member in their own discovery.
Do they need counseling for corrective behaviors? Ask for their commitment. Too often, we managers do all the talking in a meeting where we are discussing behaviors that must change. All the team member has to do is endure us talking. Be sure to ask for the commitment from them to change. Document it. Expect change. Observe and monitor behaviors and then follow up.
Are they progressing towards success? Document your sessions so you know! Find a way to document critical focus actions that lead to success. Document observations you’ve made. Be specific. Put it in writing. Your team members will appreciate your details – it shows you actually know what you’re talking about!
Are you following up? A follow up conversation demonstrates that you (the manager) have not forgotten about the team member’s progress. Any follow ups – I call these POWER FOLLOW UPS – are powerful because you have an opportunity to connect an observed behavior with a coaching conversation and it reinforces the direction your team member needs to be moving.
Managers/Leaders make their teams better when they themselves become better.
I met with my leadership team the other week to talk through a “what if” scenario. The possibilities, as I explained, were exciting. It would require more work. It would require being challenged and stretched. It would require change.
My leadership team then met (without me) a few days later to talk through this scenario. They individually have shared with me some of what they discussed.
Not surprisingly, these leaders did not focus on how this scenario would impact them and their teams. On the contrary, they focused on how they could impact the situation – how they would reallocate resources, elevate flexibility, and revisit procedures that had not been reviewed for a while. They focused on how they could improve now to make the most effective impact later.
Today (it is a Thursday), try on a “what if” scenario for you and your team. I’ll give you something to think about.
Imagine that your company measures NPS (net promoter score) as a metric that points to customer engagement/satisfaction/referrals. Then imagine that your boss comes to you and says that your team’s performance in customer service had to improve from its current level of 59% NPS to 80%. And you have 90 days to accomplish this.
Key Question: how would you impact that challenge?
I believe that many of us would quickly fall into the worry/stress mode of thinking:
- “Is my boss nuts!?! That’s not possible!”
- “Well, they better get me more staff if they want that to happen!”
- “What do you want me to stop doing to start doing this?!”
But your boss is serious. It has to be done.
So, what are you going to do to get there?
Start by envisioning a future that meets that goal. Start by asking you and your team:
- What would we do differently today to hit that goal in the future?
- How would we think differently?
- How would our team feel coming to work each day?
- What would our customers experience differently as we worked toward this goal?
- How would we shift from “this impacts me/us” to “how can I/we impact this goal”?
Brainstorm with your leadership team and members of your department. Write down your responses to the questions above. Agree on what the “new normal” will look like. Then take action. Yes, actually do this exercise as if it were real. And watch what happens. If you are the primary leader, take note of what the process in the 90 day time period:
- How are natural leaders stepping up?
- Who is “all in” and modeling the right stuff?
- How is this exercise changing the team dynamic?
- How are others outside of your department noticing what is happening (note: don’t tell them you are doing this exercise – if your team is doing this well, others will notice)?
This is an exercise worth attempting especially if you and your team are “stuck” merely showing up for work, putting in the time, and then going home. You and your team can make an impact – every day and in meaningful ways.
Leader, this all starts with you. “Exemplary leaders are forward-thinking…Turning exciting possibilities into an inspiring shared vision ranks near the top of the list of every leader’s most important responsibilities.” (Kouzes & Posner)
Today, look for ways you and your team can impact your company’s results. Dream. Cast vision. Push. Impact.
Here is a quick video about how we should engage and empower our team. It does make a difference!
“From my point of view coaching is not a tool, it is a way of being. At best it is a way of being with someone so that they begin to believe in, and progress, their own ideas. Coaching your employees can best be achieved by setting up a certified coach training programme for managers so that they can coach their staff successfully by:
• ensuring there are clear agreements and confidentiality
• creating and maintaining the energy and space for them to further their own potential
• encouraging them to take calculated risks
• challenging their negative beliefs
• enjoying with them the sense of achievement
• working with them to enhance their potential
Successfully done coaching can greatly enhance the self-belief and motivation of staff, particularly in times of change and uncertainty.” (excerpt from Coaching in the Workplace by Jackie Arnold).
I agree! I have found no downside to effect coaching. Your team wants it. Your company/organization needs it. You, the leader, needs it!
So why don’t we do it consistently?
- Many people don’t know how to coach.
- Many people don’t value coaching. “I’ve told them once…why don’t they get it.”
- Many people don’t value other people.
- Many people have a skewed idea of what coaching is.
In the article mentioned above, Jackie Arnold goes on to say:
“One significant advantage of coaching is that your employees will begin to take ownership and responsibility for their actions and self-development. The good news is that the manager as coach does not need to come up with solutions. Instead you will be listening more closely to your staff, reflecting back what you hear and questioning them in order to bring out their ideas and solutions.”
My leadership and I have been working on developing our coaching skills. I am happy to say that they have dramatically improved! They have learned to ask great questions to get to the core of issues. And they don’t stop with just one question. They dig. They probe. They get their team members to really think. They get to the bottom of issues. And their team members are coming up with solutions.
So as you head into a coaching session, prepare yourself by writing down key questions you want to ask. Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes/no.
Not: “Did you learn something from that project?” Rather: “What did you learn from that project that you can apply going forward?
Not: “Did your interaction with that other department go well?” Rather: “How did your interaction go with that department?”
Not: “I see you did not complete the report on time. Are you going to get it done by next week?” Rather: “What got in your way that caused the report to be late? Who was affected by this delay? What needs to change in future for you to be more timely?”
It is easy to move into auto-pilot mode as a leader. You are busy. You’ve got your own deadlines and initiatives. But as a leader, you are supposed to get results through others. And those “others” also can slip into auto-pilot. Great questions help them break free from that mode. Great questions help you understand what is happening and why it is happening. Great questions help you and your team member become better.
Do some preparation in advance, and your next coaching session can improve!
I do a lot of coaching and work with coaches on their coaching. Over the years, I’ve heard from coaches where they have team players that “do get it”. Through many coaching sessions, the team player continues to remain where they are, not improving. At times, this static-ness becomes a detriment to the team.
In a conversation with one of these coaches who had one of these team players, I asked, “Who does most of the talking during your coaching sessions?”
“I do,” the coach quickly responded.
“And you continue to see the same results from this team member?” I ask.
“Yes, and I’m frustrated!”
“Then talk less,” I say, “it’s time you ask them for a commitment to change.”
This launched us into a good conversation about the coach’s focus – it had been all about what the coach wanted to happen. The team member only had to sit and listen. The team member “had to have skin in the game.” They just had to endure a coaching session, and then it was back to the same behaviors.
There was no commitment coming from the team member. None.
So the coach and agreed upon these next steps:
- At the next coaching session, the coach would approach the same topic but this time ask the team member for their commitment to the process.
- The coach would ask something such as: “What things do you need to do more of or less of to bring about the change needed in your performance and to improve your relationships with your coworkers?”
- The coach then needed to be quiet and expect answers from the team member. Ask more follow up questions and listen.
- The coaching session would be documented and followed-up on.
- The coach would take time in between coaching sessions to be around the team even more to observe and listen.
- Feedback would be provided at future coaching sessions.
- The team member’s commitment would be reviewed and evaluated in future sessions.
This plan was implemented. It worked. The coach remained consistent. The team member complied and improved. But she eventually left the company. Why?
Expectations were backed up with accountability – the team member didn’t want this kind of accountability over the long-haul. She knew (in my opinion) that she would not keep up her end of the commitment. So she left. And that was ok.
The coach’s team is now performing well together. Their results have improved. Their reputation has improved among their peers.
Leader, do not be afraid to ask for a commitment from your team. Back up your expectations with accountability. Be consistent in your coaching, documentation, and follow-up. Your team can and will improve!
Will your team get better just because they show up for work? Doubtful.
Coaching is the only, sustainable way to improve your team. Of course, your team needs training and communication, but coaching is the only way YOU, the coach/manager/leader, will be able to enable them to become better.
As a leader, you cannot rely on other leaders to improve their teams to compensate for weaknesses on your team. Each team leader must dedicate themselves to team improvement. Then, as a whole, your company becomes better.
Improve your coaching and you help your team members become better. Then your team becomes better. Your company (and your customers and communities) become better.
That’s a winning combination.