Guide Employees Using Coaching Conversations
Every manager has opportunities to incorporate coaching skills into their relationships with employees, even in fields where processes and structures make it challenging, or in today's volatile business landscape. Coaching, in essence, helps people identify – for themselves – the power of their potential.
Instead of giving them step-by-step instructions of exactly which roads to take, you are handing them a map and a compass and allowing them to find their way to that end destination. They may take different roads than you would, but it allows those employees to grow and develop on their own instead of continuing to rely on you. Through coaching, employees learn to solve problems on their own.
Here are 7 Coaching tips for managers to become a better coach:
- Listen before you respond: Gathering as much information as possible will help you decide if this is a situation where you should act as a manager or as a coach. Without knowing the extent of the employee’s concerns or problems, it is easy to misjudge whether it is an opportunity for a coaching conversation or not.
- Think of yourself as a sounding board, not a Magic 8-Ball: As a manager-coach, you are there to help employees solve their own problems instead of telling them what to do. Adjust your mindset away from providing answers or suggestions toward offering employees independence and trusting them to come up with a solution.
- Ask questions, don’t just tell employees what to do: Often, managers get into the trap of being the problem-solver for their direct reports. With employees who are searching for the answer to a problem, ask questions that lead the employee toward solving their own problems, instead of giving them your solution.
- Use open-ended questions, not closed-ended questions: Also known as discovery questions, open-ended questions increase the coachees’ engagement in the conversation as they brainstorm their own solutions. Instead of “yes” or “no” answers, open-ended questions solicit ideas, drawbacks, potential opportunities, and options from the employee being coached.
- When someone asks you a question, that’s your trigger to ask a question back: Especially when employees want to know “How should I solve this problem?” you can immediately go into coach mode and ask “How do you think it should be solved?” This interaction creates a great learning opportunity, an answer that potentially could be better than the answer you might have provided, and increased efficiency through quicker problem solving.
- Encourage employees to think about potential barriers: Part of being a coach is being realistic about what might derail a plan of action. Once the employee has devised a solution, it’s critical for coaches to remind him or her of what could go wrong and help him or her to establish alternatives and adaptations if something unexpectedly goes differently than planned.
- Create a contract of accountability: For a true coaching conversation to occur, action must be generated and accountability must be established. Once the employee has made his or her decision, create a timeline and a deadline for the desired action to take place and follow up.
Coaching can be part of many situations: a career goals conversation, a yearly review, or even a tough conversation about performance. There’s a time and place to be a manager or a coach in the workplace; not every situation will be ideal for one approach or the other. But when managers become a better coach to employees, the benefits are incredible: it can increase employee engagement, establish trust in employees, help gain a variety of perspectives, allow employees to grow and develop as leaders, and gain buy-in for decisions.