How To Be A Better Coach At Work

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A mentor once taught me the value of team spirit and how with the right culture and an exciting vision, a team of "average" skill can achieve exceptional results. He showed me the importance of having regular conversations with team members to build a culture of trust, create accountability, and encourage risk-taking. To this day, I strive to always be the kind of leader who brings out the best in my team.

As a team leader, you’re in the powerful position to be that kind of influence on your team. Yes, it’s challenging – you don’t have enough time, your targets are really high, and you may even be dealing with problematic team members or huge business challenges.  But it is rewarding. Not just in terms of personal fulfilment and job satisfaction, but your overall team performance.

“When given the opportunity to learn and grow, people thrive. By adopting a coaching mentality and approach, you can help members of your team realize their potential. An investment in employees will help retain top talent and foster a culture of growth and opportunity, which is a win for people and profit,” says this Harvard article on how to adopt a coaching mentality.

Experts share their tips on how anyone can be a better coach.

Know When To Let Go

As manager, you’re used to giving directions and final approval. If you’re always controlling every step of the decision process, they will never have the chance to develop skills or become more proactive. They learn to just “follow the boss” instead of taking ownership of their work.

In your work process, define what tasks can be decided on their level and when they need to escalate. Provide clear goals, information or resources, and deadlines. If necessary, set milestones so that they feel a sense of accomplishment and you can check in on the quality of their work.

Learn To Ask, Not Tell

We’re all too familiar with employees running to our office with work conflicts or project delays. Employees run to our desk to ask for advice or even just to complain. Learn to turn these “stressful” situations into coaching opportunities. Use our GROW approach:

  • (G)OAL.  Ask them, “How can I help you? What do you really want to achieve/answer after our talk?”

  • (R)EALITY. Get the facts. “What happened?” The process of explaining the problem to you can help employees clarify the problem and the factors that contributed to it. That’s already a powerful lesson!

  • (O)PPORTUNITY.  Help your employees list down options. Your tone and attitude is critical: if you remain calm and positive, they will take your cue and take a more problem-solving mindset.

  • (W)HAT’S NEXT. Together, make a feasible action plan. Set deadlines, identify persons who can help, refine processes, and re-calibrate expectations.

During this process, your employees become engaged in solving the issue and take responsibility for the choices they made. Adapt the coaching mentality by showing employees the wider and deeper business consequences and what they can do in the future. Just as The GROW Approach helps them take ownership for tasks, it can help them take ownership for their role and impact on the company.

Schedule Regular One-On-One Meetings

In a fast-paced business environment, feedback can become limited to team meetings and annual performance appraisals. However, you can’t coach employees you barely see or know. This puts everyone at a disadvantage. You only hear about issues when they’ve already become big problems, which makes you feel like you’re always putting out fires. Your employees feel abandoned and misunderstood by management, who are always setting standards but aren’t giving support or resources.

This can all be avoided by just scheduling short but regular one-on-one meetings with each member of your team. This takes less time and effort than you expect! Have coffee with them. Or block off 30 minutes each day for a quick chat in the office. Ask about their challenges, tasks, and also what’s going on at home. That personal connection can make them feel valued as people, and help you get to know their personality and work styles – a really important management insight!

Give Both Positive and “Negative” Feedback

Coaching is all about feedback. Again, think about your favorite teacher. They weren’t just “nice” teachers who gave unlimited praise – they also called you out on something you needed to change. The difference is in how they did it. Did they leave notes on your test papers? Did they call you into their office for a personal talk? Did they say, “I think you can do better!” and then meet with you more frequently so you could catch up on work? And when you did succeed, weren’t they the first ones to say, “Good job! I knew you could do it!”?

Bring that into your workplace meetings. You don’t need to give out stickers and stamps (although that would be fun!) but remember you are working with people, not just targets.  Behind every missed deadline and failed project are team members who did not have the right skills, processes or team dynamics. Work with them regularly – talking to them, listening to them, and testing solutions together.

There is no “shortcut” to this. Feedback is ultimately communication, commitment, constancy, and consistency. “We will all work together to create an environment where we can all succeed.”

Harness The Power Of Digital

Grow is a leadership development platform that makes it easy and convenient to discuss issues, connect with team members, set individual and team goals and give feedback as you all work together to achieve them. It provides a safe space where team members can collaborate and support each other while having access to expertly curated resources that support their development objective.

Contact us to find out more about Grow and how it can help you and your team.

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Originally published on LinkedIn by Rudi Ramin