March 14, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed
“While the big events of our lives create the impetus for change, it is the moment-by- moment choices that mold and shape us.”
― Karen Kimsey-House, Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead
If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is: making progress at meaningful work. And coaching can help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.
To do so, regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential to understand what drives each person.
Unfortunately, many supervisors think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. This is an opportunity missed.
Coaching is a powerful experience that creates a resonant connection with another person and helps them achieve something they care about while helping them become more of who they want to be. If there’s anything an effective, resonant coaching conversation produces, it’s positive energy.
Start today to be a more effective manager by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members. As you resolve to support their ongoing learning and development, here are five key tips to get you started.
1. Design Your Alliance
First, design and sustain your alliance. While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your team members’ developmental goals and strategies is essential. But to do so, you need to establish an environment of mutuality and trust. As a coach, you must know how to work with your team member to empower them. This is a process of ‘co-creation’ where the employee also helps create the kind of coach she needs. Here, you can ask questions like:
- What are you looking for in me as your coach?
- If this coaching was to be effective, what would it look like?
- What is the best way for me to challenge you?
- How do you want me to respond when you have not completed something you wanted me to complete?
The designed alliance is the co-created space within which the coaching takes place. This space is dynamic and evolving so periodically you can check in on your designed alliance to see how it’s working for you. Just like ground rules you may need to add, modify, or delete some of your agreements depending on how the relationship has evolved.
2. Listen with curiosity:
Have you ever had the luxurious and deeply validating experience of communicating with someone who is completely focused on you and actively listening to what you have to say with an open mind and an open heart? What does that feel like? That’s coaching. And listening in coaching may be the most important skill set.
You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively and then follow your curiosity.
3. Ask, don’t tell.
As a manager, you are used to problem solving. This is fine when you’re clarifying action steps for a project you’re leading or when people come to you asking for advice. But in a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employee’s path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers. This is how people clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action.
There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.
Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:
- Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”
- Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”
- Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”
The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.
4. Forward the Action
Oftentimes in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in their own stories. While it can provide temporary relief to vent, it doesn’t generate solutions. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage her to think about how to move past them. You might ask, “What is it you really want?” or “Which of the activities you mentioned offer the greatest potential for reaching your goal?” Then, when the employee is settled on an action, ask them what action, if taken, would make the biggest difference in helping them advance towards their goal.
5. Build accountability.
Last, but not least, it is imperative that the employee follow through on commitments. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness. If your employee plans to network with other potential business partners, for example, give these plans more weight by asking her to identify specific individuals with dates and times and to deliver this information to you by a certain deadline.
A Final Word
If you want to build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak, try establishing regular coaching conversations.
Coaching accelerates progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. It concentrates on where you are today and what you are willing to do to get where you want to be tomorrow. Coaching provides a transformative space for your employee to experience easier and accelerated growth to move them towards their goals. It provides insights and clarity, pattern recognition and interruption, conscious commitment, real time feedback, and accountability.
Join the movement and coach your heart out.
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