In this final part of our Coaching series, we will focus on helping your team take action. To recap, in Part 1 we introduced the business case for coaching and two primary tools, acknowledgment and validation In Part two we covered the importance of being present as a prerequisite to effective Listening, Clarifying, Asking Permission, and Brainstorming. This article focuses on skills which help you take what you learn into later one-on-one meetings, to help your team members act.
In a 2011 study done by the University of Wollongong in Australia, coaching is referred to as ‘a clear feature in the workplaces of the future.’ Welcome to the future.
It is far more difficult to be a Leader Coach than to be an external Coach. Being present, listening without judgment, and NOT problem-solving is not easy when you have a work history with someone. In addition, looking out for the organization and the interests of the team member are, sometimes, in opposition. All of this is amplified in dysfunctional cultures where objectivity and change is particularly challenging. Nevertheless, it is the leader’s job to navigate and help each individual reach their performance potential safely. So let’s introduce some tools to ease the way.
The Leader Coach hovers between coach and consultant when sharing information. To create a sustainable enterprise, leaders must coach teams to think critically and solve problems. Your team cannot do this if you always tell them what to do. Be open and clear about the facts, limitations, and share professional resources; but for less concrete problem-solving, help them find their way.
This will not be easy at first. Asking open-ended questions and waiting for an answer can be painful. When your team member is silent it can be awkward, especially when they expect you to give them the answers. Be consistent and supportive until they find their own solutions. Do this with confidence by creating a clear and consistent process that feels natural for you. See an example below. You can use it, change it, or create something completely unique.
Keep in mind that if you adopt this that listening is key, and changing the questions based on the direction of your team member is vital to an authentic and effective interaction.
If you can connect your team member to a prior success, the 3-step process is a great choice for helping them to action. By reframing that experience they become motivated to focus on solutions and strengths. For instance, if your team member expressed frustration over team communication gaps on your primarily virtual team, using the 3-step process could sound something like this:
Leader: Have you ever had a similarly challenging communication situation where you were able to find a way to make it work?
Team Member: In graduate school, our team members were geographically diverse. It was challenging in meeting regularly and keeping everyone working together.
Leader: What worked well in that situation?
Team Member: We decided to make all our meetings live and virtual. We also created a Slack channel with “office hours” where the team could exchange files and information in real time. Those who could not make live meetings were still able to attend via their computer or a phone. Those who could not attend at all could get a recording and resources.
Leader: What did you do specifically to make that happen?
Team Member: I got us the free video conferencing account. I was also one of the administrators of the Slack channel.
Leader: How can you apply that with your team here?
Team Member: I could bring it up in our next team meeting and demonstrate a Slack channel. That way we could see If anyone would be interested.
Leader: That sounds like a great idea, having experienced this before you see this challenge clearly. Let me know how much time you need in the weekly meeting. Is there any other way, I can support you?
The best way to manage performance is to create goals that are SMART. This is certainly not specific to coaching goals. If you have had a performance review you have likely heard this term. But do not let that association dissuade you – SMART goals are a smart decision.
You can create a SMART goal for anything you want to accomplish, in response to a problem, or as you create a new product or process. below is a quick introduction and example, but for a deeper dive into Goal setting and using SMART check out this from ascend (Harvard Business Review).
Being specific means clearly defining the details of what is to be carried out. A coaching conversation around this would sound something like this:
Team Member: I want to create a more cohesive environment for my team.
Leader: Considering they are all virtual, what do you mean by cohesive?
Team Member: They must be able to communicate in real time, in multiple ways, confidentially. They cannot always call each other because often they are on other calls or in meetings when they need to consult one another.
In order to make a goal measurable, it must have a way to gauges success using either quantitative or qualitative metrics. To continue the conversation around a cohesive team:
Leader: How will we know this will make them more cohesive?
Team Member: They will reach out to each other more (frequency), which means problems will get solved faster (duration). They will work less overtime and have fewer miscommunications and rework. So, we should also experience less conflict.
Next it must be written in a way to show concrete behaviors and action.
Leader: What action or actions are you recommending in terms of solutions and guidelines?
Team Member: We give them a chat account, Skype or whatever our IT group can support. We also give them each a video conferencing account and the equipment and training to use them, so they can have video calls and/or chat as needed. I would also like to have Weekly video meetings for all of us and pop up meetings, so we can have more interactivity.
Being realistic means the goal can be achieved given existing constraints, such as time and resources.
Leader: Do you have the time to move this forward? What is a realistic first step?
Team Member: I will research our options with IT and then vet them with the team. I can let you know what each would need in terms of implementation and training, as well as how much it will cost.
This refers to the specific time frame in which the goal is carried out.
Leader: When do you foresee the solution going into place?
Team Member: If possible, based on our options, 4-6 weeks; if not, by first Quarter next year.
In all these skills and those introduced before them, the common theme is empowerment. You will not always be around to answer questions. By coaching you give the sustaining gift of inquiry that your team member will eventually practice on their own as critical thinking. Then they will be able to take action. We hope you enjoyed this series. Let us know what other coaching tools you use or would like to learn about? The Hire offers Coaching Services for Individuals and Groups, we can also help your leaders 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.