How Great Leaders Coach: PART 1 – The Hire .com


Leader-Coach holding a team member looking into the future.

How Great Leaders Coach: PART 1

Last month we talked about the 4 Key Distinctions between Managers and Leaders. This month we pick up that thread with a 3-part series about coaching and managing. Over the series we will introduce some tools, and simple examples of how to use them, to inspire your inner coach. Because if you want to be an effective Leader you must be an expert in understanding, motivating, and supporting each of your team members to be the best version of themselves at work.

The Business Case: Why you can’t afford NOT to Coach

You have heard it before, and often, today’s workplace is different (and constantly changing.) That is true, and yet, in some ways it’s not. Watch any movie about workplace from “The Apartment” to “Office Space” to “The Intern” and you will see that, while exaggerated, certain universal truths about how we feel about and behave at work do not change. Further, organizations would (and should) have the goal of profitability. Even non-profits need $$$ to reinvest in continued service to their mission and audience. Because of these constants, when managers from the Supervisor level to the C-suite hear they must “coach more,” they think (or scream and shout), when am I supposed to find the time to do that? I have targets to hit, meetings to attend, emails to read, and WORK TO DO!

Here’s the thing – all that is true and will never change UNLESS you take the time to coach and make it a habit. There are business payoffs for doing this effectively. Check out the information below from a 2015 study by Zenger|Folkman (as reported in Forbes). They show a strong positive correlation of effective Leader-Coaches to employees “willing to go the extra mile.”

There are business payoffs for doing this effectively, check out the information right from a 2015 study by Zenger|Folkman (as reported in Forbes), they show a strong positive correlation of effective Leader-Coaches to employees "willing to go the extra mile."

As a manager, it IS your job to ensure your team produces results. But to make that sustainable you must also be a leader, and leaders coach their teams to think critically and solve problems. But how exactly can you look out for the needs of each individual team member, support the collective team, and deliver on expectations to your organization? Read on to find out about two simple coaching tools that go a long way.

Tool #1: Acknowledging

Acknowledging is all about recognition without judgment. It includes pointing out characteristics or small wins by a team member, that they may not be celebrating, or even aware of. It is also about letting them know that you have understood what they are saying. So, be specific, look for their best qualities, and keep your opinion to yourself.

For example, if your team member is telling you that they had to “jump through hoops” to meet a deadline, you might validate them by saying;

It sounds like you were resolute and hit the deadlines on the project in spite of the multiple challenges you faced.

Keep in mind that every coaching tool has its pitfalls; the most common to each being the potential to overuse. So make sure your acknowledgment is sincere and special, or it will lose its power. Also, be aware and OK with the fact that you may get it wrong. If you misunderstood, give your team member an opportunity to correct you and ask questions until you get it right.

Tool #2: Validating

Validating conveys to the speaker that it is ok to feel the way they feel. It is acknowledging the role their values, culture, and personal history play in shaping their perception. Just as with acknowledgment, validating does not include sharing your judgments or feelings.

To pick up our earlier example, your team member shares a frustration about some gossip she heard around the office. She was told by “a friend” that one of her colleagues called her “lazy” to several other team members because of formatting errors in the final report. This is the first time you are hearing about this. As a leader to both individuals you know it is important to stay objective until you collect all the facts. You also know you need to validate your team member. You might say something like;

Given what you heard Janet said, it is completely understandable that you would feel frustrated.

We know what you are thinking. I should be pulling my team into a room together, calling HR, asking questions, investigating the incident… but slow down. Your first responsibility, as a leader, is to ensure your team member feels heard. Let them express what THEY want to express before you rush to judgment or problem-solving. Later you will talk about how they want to work on the problem, don’t skip ahead.

Like acknowledging, you want to be judicious in using validation. Too much can seem insincere and even embarrassing or annoying. Also, keep in mind that validating becomes invalid if you relate your own personal feelings. Never shift the attention from the speaker to yourself. You are not them and do not know how they feel.

Your team members, especially when struggling in a specific area, need to know they are heard and understood. By objectively Acknowledging and Validating what they express, you show you are listening, and they are important. Remember, people are your most valuable resource so knowing them needs to be your priority. The Hire offers talent management services that can help, like our new predictive analytics programs fueled by The Predictive Index. Get in touch to learn more and please join us next week for more great coaching tools to inspire learning and high-performance!


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.

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