Last week we kicked off our series on Coaching with an introduction to the most powerful tools in coaching, Acknowledgment and Validation. Those simple tools used judiciously and authentically can make your team members feel heard and lead to increased engagement. This week we will introduce four more tools – Listening, Clarifying, Asking Permission, and Brainstorming. But first, as a prerequisite to these or any of your coaching efforts, you must be present.
For coaching to be effective you must earn the trust of your team members. Once you have their trust, you must keep it. Being present in every team meeting, one-on-one session, or situation where you are interacting is key. It is the best way to show respect to the person/people you are with.
Listening is one of the most important aspects of communication, but there are distinct levels which a good leader and coach must be aware of.
Want to learn more about how active listening can turn a typical conversation into a coaching opportunity? Check out the article from the Center for Creative Leadership.
Once you have listened, it is important to ensure you have correctly and understood what is been said. Clarifying can help you do that. It can also help the speaker understand the importance of a word or phrase. So, do not be afraid to ask questions as in the example below…
Team Member: I’m really struggling to build a partnership with Joe. I know it’s important to get his department’s point of view on the project, but he is challenging to keep focused.
Leader: What do you mean by focus?
Team Member: I send him work to review and he never does, then he comes to the meeting and I need to walk him through the material – but he gets distracted by formatting or grammar issues. This makes the team have to work ridiculous hours to get the work done.
Leader: Tell me what “ridiculous hours” mean?
Team Member: To meet the prescribed deadlines, they are working their regular hours plus late nights and weekends. They are really starting to burn out.
Leader: So how do we plan differently to ensure the deadlines are more reasonable going forward, or that you have more resources to meet them without such a negative impact on the team?
So, this section is a twofer – because Brainstorming is a coaching skill you will ask your team members for permission before embarking on. The reason asking permission is important, here, and anytime you want to share an observation, is to keep trust and avoid pushing your agenda or ideas on your team member. Coaching, as an arm of learning, is more powerful than telling because it enables the future.
You both have a problem to solve, you need to set up the situation so you can solve it together. Because your responsibility is to your team member to help them grow, so you can both fulfill responsibilities to the organization. By asking their permission you give the team member ownership and support. For more great information on the Power of Permission, check out this article from NGrowth.
Brainstorming is a familiar tool for most of you, if not check out the “How might we” or “HMW” process for brainstorming that is effectively used at Google, Facebook, and IDEO. No matter what the process, Brainstorming is an engaging way to generate ideas to approach challenges and exchange insights. When you brainstorm with your team member you share not only your ideas but your critical thinking process. If you use this tool keep in mind there is to be no judgment of ideas along the way. It is simply a safe space to explore possibilities.
Below is an example of how the earlier scenario might continue into a short brainstorming exercise:
Leader: So, we need to plan differently to ensure the deadlines are more reasonable going forward, or that you have more resources to meet them without such negative impact on the team?
Team Member: Yes.
Leader: Ok, would you be open to doing a little brainstorming exercise to work this out?
Team Member: Great, how do we get started?
Leader: Let’s just share all the ideas that we can think of… How might we either extend the delivery or get more resources to solve this problem?
Team Member: Hire an added designer for my team.
Leader: What else? (and so on, you will also contribute here but let your team member lead)
Your team members deserve leaders who are present. That means listening, asking questions and helping them solve problems (and not doing it for them.) These four tools, along with Acknowledging and Validating, are a great starter kit for leading your employees with confidence. Come back next week when we close our coaching series with three more simple tools and resources. Feel like you need more one-on-one help? The Hire offers Coaching Services and can help you help your leaders to become better coaches. Get in touch to learn more!
Lisa Crockett is a leader and professional development coach with more than 20 years of experience in Human Resources, Learning, and Performance. To learn more about her professional career visit her on LinkedIn.