What is your most valuable leadership skill? Is your team achieving all you wish they would?
Love him or hate him, Alec Baldwin made the ABC catchphrase famous. “ABC, always be closing.” Later it was parodied on SNL with a bunch of Christmas elves who were scolded by Baldwin to “Always be Cobbling”.
With highly effective leadership another ABC applies; Always Be Coaching.
A leader’s influence on the people they serve is best demonstrated with perpetual coaching and mentoring. Above all, sharing insights and giving your team honest feedback helps build a legacy of powerful leadership.
In this crazy busy world in which we live, it’s easy for a manager to feel the need to just get by; get your own things done and call it quits at a reasonable hour each day.
Yet when you spend the time to coach your team, one by one, you get amazing dividends. In other words, rewards that are returned to you in higher performance, greater trust, and even better efficiency.
What is Coaching
Coaching is a different approach to developing employees’ potential. With coaching, you provide your staff with the opportunity to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counseling and mentoring.
Rather than relying solely on a review schedule, you can support employees along the path to meeting their goals. Done in the right way, coaching is perceived as a roadmap for success and a benefit. Done incorrectly and employees may feel berated, unappreciated, even punished.
This requires the skill of reacting and expanding. You should acknowledge the employee’s suggestion, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the suggestion, ask for and offer additional suggestions, and ask the employee to explain how to resolve the issue under discussion.
These seven steps, when followed, can help create a positive environment for providing feedback.
Step 1: Build a Relationship of Trust
The foundation of any coaching relationship is rooted in the manager’s day-to-day relationship with the employee. Without some degree of trust, conducting an effective coaching meeting is impossible.
Step 2: Get Agreement
Probably the most critical step in any coaching process is getting the employee to agree verbally that they are open to your coaching.
Step 3: Communicating Clearly During the Open
If you choose to schedule a coaching session, in opening the meeting, it’s important for the leader to clarify, in a nonaccusatory way, the specific reason the meeting was arranged.
The key to this step is to restate — in a friendly, nonjudgmental manner — the meeting purpose that was first set when the appointment was scheduled.
Step 4: If Performance is Really at Risk
Overlooking or avoiding the performance issue because you assume the employee understands its significance is a typical mistake of managers.
To persuade an employee a performance issue exists, a manager must be able to define the nature of the issue and get the employee to recognize the consequences of not changing his or her behavior. To do this, you must specify the behavior and clarify the consequences.
Step 4: Explore Alternatives
The best coaching happens in the moment. For example, if you are walking the floor and hear or see behavior from an employee that needs adjusting, don’t be afraid to get the employee’s attention.
Remind them of the vision and values your unit operates under. Show them the connection between their action and that vision.
Be specific in the coaching moment.
In doing this you must be certain to have your discussion in a manner that does not demean or degrade the employee, but rather helps to build them up, showing the better way.
Next, explore ways the issue can be improved or corrected by encouraging the employee to identify alternative solutions.
Step 5: Get a Commitment to Act
The next step is to help the employee choose an alternative. Don’t make the choice for the employee.
To accomplish this step, the manager must be sure to get a verbal commitment from the employee regarding what action will be taken and when it will be taken. Be sure to support the employee’s choice and offer praise.
Step 6: Handle Excuses
Employee excuses may occur at any point during the coaching process. To handle excuses, rephrase the point by taking a comment or statement that was perceived by the employee to be blaming or accusatory and recast it as an encouragement for the employee to examine his or her behavior.
Respond empathetically to show support for the employee’s situation and communicate an understanding of both the content and feeling of the employee’s comment.
Step 7: Provide Feedback
Effective coaches understand the value and importance of giving continual feedback to their people, both positive and corrective.
There are a few critical things to remember when giving feedback to others. Feedback should:
- Be timely. It should occur as soon as practical after the interaction, completion of the deliverable, or observation is made.
- Be specific. Statements like “You did a great job” or “You didn’t take care of the clients’ concerns very well” are too vague and don’t give enough insight into the behavior you would like to see repeated or changed.
- Focus on the “what,” not the “why.” Avoid making the feedback seem as if it is a judgment. Begin with “I have observed…” or “I have seen…” and then refer to the behavior. Focus on behavior and not the person. Describe what you heard and saw and how those behaviors impact the team, client, etc.
- Use a sincere tone of voice. Avoid a tone that exhibits anger, frustration, disappointment or sarcasm.
Positive feedback strengthens performance. People will naturally go the extra mile when they feel recognized and appreciated.
Remember Your ABCs
Always Be Coaching. These are the ABCs of real, effective leadership.
Lastly, if you’re still not sure what coaching can do for your team, ask a coach. Engage someone who coaches for a living to share the methods and principles they use for effective coaching.