What does the image of a ‘coach’ conjure up in your mind? A sports coach teaching athletes new skills, helping them to focus on their game, getting the best out of their performance and beating the competition? Now imagine the same kind of attention lavished on employees in the workplace and see the difference it could make.
Coaching in the workplace is not a new concept, but until fairly recently tended to be reserved for high performing executives and key decision makers in the business. But what if all managers became coaches?
The role of the ‘coaching’ manager goes far beyond traditional staff management. It’s a holistic approach that starts by valuing the employee as a person, helping them grow and develop their personal and professional skills in the long term. Rather than telling your team member what they must do, coaching is based on listening, supporting, guiding them towards achieving their goals and aspirations.
More than that, as a coach it is your role to help employees by furnishing them with information and tools, suggestions and opportunities that they can use to make progress I their professional career and beyond.
There are many coaching programmes available for managers to make the transition from regular line management to becoming an effective employee coach. Here’s just one example on how you can learn the necessary skills to help you put the following effective employee coaching tips into practice.
- Make time for discussion
Every coaching conversation is a chance to check in with your team member and demonstrate your commitment to helping him/her grow. Make sure you’re both happy to communicate and contribute. Without a regular commitment to meeting up and discuss progress, this isn’t going to happen. Set a mutually agreed agenda to give your meeting a purpose and a structure, and follow up with action points.
- Devise an action plan
Whatever the outcome of each coaching conversation or one-to-one meetings, shared agreements that have been reached should always be documented, and an action plan should be drawn up. This will enable you both to stay focused on the agreed priorities in the weeks to come, and track and measure progress along the way. What’s more, the document can act as an accountability tool for all concerned.
- Give regular feedback
Assuming you’re already in the habit of communicating freely with your team members and hold regular one-to-ones, giving constructive feedback as and when needed shouldn’t come as a great shock. In fact, feedback should be encouraged both ways. Build an environment of mutual trust and respect and create a safe space for everyone to be able to share opinions freely that will be positively received.
- Show a fresh perspective
As line manager, you can see things from a different perspective than your team. The ability to stand back means that you can point out the obvious that individual team members may not be able to see, and give advice on how best to change behaviours or improve efficiencies in workflow. With a fresh pair of eyes, you can help identify processes or projects that might benefit from being done differently or delegated altogether.
- Present new challenges
One of the most important jobs as a coach is to push for greater achievement. Why not set your employees new responsibilities, set up new challenges to propel them to higher levels of productivity and leadership? For underachievers, a new challenge may be just what’s needed to reignite their passion for the job, exceed expectations and develop a new found confidence in their work.
- Align with their motivations
Motivating team members is a key part of every line manager’s role. Use your coaching sessions to find out what drives the individual employees in your team and tap into their motivations. Those who are intrinsically motivated through, say, a love of learning or a sense of accomplishment, might be encouraged to take on greater responsibilities or tackle a difficult project. Extrinsically motivated team members will respond positively to the goal of greater rewards and career progression.
- Leave your ego at the door
The employee you’re coaching may feel emotional about the content of your conversations, especially when constructive feedback is given about their performance, strengths and weaknesses, or the person feels frustrated about a particular aspect of their job. That’s perfectly understandable. Your role is to support them without your own feelings getting in the way. Make sure that you get the support you need from your own coach, so that your own agenda doesn’t muddy the waters.
- Be strong about accountability
Making a plan is the easy bit, following it and delivering on the action point is the hard part. Without accountancy built into the process, it’s easy for your coachee to get lost along the way. As manager, it is your job to check on progress and issue reminders when goals have not been reached. Deliver your feedback in a sensitive and non-personal way, critiquing the specific behaviour and never the person. Your review should be professional yet sympathetic without being emotional.
- Don’t micromanage
There may be a temptation to ‘over’ coach leading to micromanagement. If this sounds like you, remind yourself that the role of an employee coach is to provide support and guidance, but that it is up to the individual employee to take the baton and run with it. You must trust them to know their own goals and aspirations and give them the responsibility and accountability to pursue their own career growth.