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Coach Your Employees like a Geocacher

ship steering wheel

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Uncover unique Treasures in Your Direct reports with coaching

Imagine hundreds of thousands of treasures buried EVERYWHERE—treasures that are available for anyone to find, hidden literally all over the world, typically in some sort of container in plain sight.

When I say “treasures” you may know exactly what I'm talking about. But then again, about 90% of the people I talk to have never heard of it.

Non-geocachers are oblivious to their presence, but geocachers know where to find them: they have the right equipment, the right knowledge, the right coordinates. They find these treasures in the world every day.

If you are a manager, you know you have treasures in your workplace: people who perform at a high level consistently. You also have others who are more of a diamond in the rough. They have the ability to be that treasure, they just need a little more guidance to uncover their ability.

Part of your role as a leader is to manage the performance of everyone you lead. But you also know you can't be the "cookie cutter coach" and guide each person the same way. Effective managers identify the uniqueness that each person brings to the team and helps each individual see the potential that is within, incorporating coaching into every interaction with a person.

The best managers know they need to tailor their conversations to the individual’s preferences, strengths, and motivators. Let's look to the world of geocaching for a guide to finding the treasures that lie in each of your employees.

A 5-step Guide to Finding the Treasures in Your Employees

1. Determine the goal before you start

One of the first things a geocacher does is determine where we are going before starting a trek. We'll look online to determine the general area we'd like to target and then hone in on a specific site.

You do the same when coaching people. Hone in on your expectations. As a manager, you have general expectations for your team and specific goals for different people.

Since expectations usually differ by employee, you'll want to ensure each one knows what is expected so they are clear on what they will be coached to. You've got people performing at different levels and you expect more from your high performers. Let all your employees know the general targets you'd like your team to accomplish, and then let each individual know the potential you see in each one of them.

2. Have the right tools

You won't get very far in geocaching unless you have the right equipment. Most essential is the GPS device to locate the path to the cache. Using this device, along with a "goody bag" of gifts, will help you efficiently route you to a successful cache.

As a manager-coach, you'll want to know the right tools to have, starting with training on how to coach and basic coaching skills (coaching may not be exactly what you think it is!).

Your employees have different preferences for how they like to be coached and those may not be the same as yours! For example, a more directive style of coaching may make a more collaborative coachee feel uncomfortable. Knowing how to adapt to the styles of your employees makes the journey more rewarding and productive.

3. Be in the Most conducive environment

Just like in our workplace, the geocaching environment comes in many different forms. You can geoacache in the woods, in the desert, in an urban environment, at the beach. Each environment is unique, just as each individual organization—and the people in it—are unique.

As a manager-coach you'll want to approach those with more experience in a different way than someone who is brand new. How much experience do they have? Did they lead? Were they used to collaboration? Are they more accustomed to working independently with little direction? Recognize the environment of your people and where they came from to get where they are. 

4. Give away treasures and recognition

That little "goody bag of gifts"? Every geocacher carries one in the hopes of collecting new treasures in the caches they find. But the only thing more fun than collecting gifts is giving gifts away. Rare is the monetary or precious metal gift (although they do exist), but it's not about the monetary value of the gift. It's about the surprise and delight of just giving a gift!

As manager-coach, recognize your employees as they take steps toward their target. It doesn’t need to be a gift card or money. It could be a simple "thank you for making sure that got done today" or a quick email to recognize a particular accomplishment.

Make it personal when you can, providing a specific-to-that-employee acknowledgement. When you give a treasure away to one of your employees, you let them know how much you appreciate their work and, in turn, they will give back to you.

5. Challenge employees to achieve more

Few geocachers go back to a cache they have already found. What's the challenge in that? We'll certainly celebrate and log our accomplishments, but now it's time to raise the bar. Take that hike through the woods you’ve never explored. Climb those city park rocks you’ve always noticed but never tried.

Do the same with your people. Identify how each individual employee is doing and coach specific to his or her needs. Determine what strengths you have on your team and leverage them. Ask your employees questions to determine their interests and where they see their next step.

A manager-coach helps others see the potential (treasure!) that is already inside of them and challenges them to unleash that potential.


The Path to Take    

If you haven't tried geocaching, I would highly recommend it (if you can’t tell by my enthusiasm for it!). It’s an adventure that allows you to target toward a goal and be rewarded for achieving it. As an avid geocacher, I delight in the many treasures I have found: a rather large squishy rubber frog, a miniature Matchbox-sized Jeep, and a bunch of marbles to name a few!

I feel the same way about being a coach. As a manager-coach, we do the same when we tailor our coaching to each individual, guiding them to take the path to find their own treasures and watching as they succeed.

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Linda Dausend

Linda Dausend CPLP, is a senior consultant at FlashPoint. Linda collaborates with clients to unlock the power of great leaders within their organizations.