Today’s guest blogger is Mary Jo Asmus. You can read more about her at the bottom of this post. If you haven’t read her blog yet, you should go read it and subscribe to it by clicking here. Enjoy her thoughts!
Many of my clients are beginning to see the value in coaching their staff to prepare for their future careers or to get better at their current position. My clients are very smart people. They know that coaching isn’t just about telling their employees what to do and how to do it. They’ve recognized that coaching others is a leadership tool that helps their staff to figure out a lot of things for themselves and to also sustain their learning.
When I ask a roomful of managers “how many of you are pretty good at telling people what to do?” about 90% of them raise their hands. Telling your staff what to do and how to do it is pretty easy for most of us. But it doesn’t always impart learning that is sustainable over the long haul. Coaching can help your staff learn and retain what they’ve learned, but it requires some new skills that are often very different than the ones you’ve used in the past.
How do you begin to coach others? Here are some of the things to be considered:
1. Choose staff members who want to learn and grow. Coaching those staff members whom you would give a grade of “C” or lower is a lesson in futility. One saying we have in the coaching world is “if you are working harder than the person you are coaching, then coaching isn’t the right tool for them.” Choose wisely who you will coach, because it takes time and emotional effort. Consider coaching your “A” and “B” managers – an “A” can become an “A+” and a “B” still has lots of room to grow. Give them the choice and ask if they would they like to be coached by you. An enthusiastic “yes” from them means they are ready to learn.
2. Plan to meet often and regularly. If you schedule coaching meetings on a regular basis – say once a month – they can be brief and focused. Sometimes a half an hour is all that is needed. These meetings don’t have to be face to face either. Many leaders have a dispersed and globally-located staff, and coaching them can be quite effective over the telephone or via web cam (until the web cam technology gets better, my personal preference is to use the phone). Regular meetings will help to move the person you are coaching along toward achieving their goals.
3. Recognize that those being coached know best what they need to get better at. Respect your coachee’s intelligence and ability to learn by embracing the fact that you don’t know what’s best for them. When you can let go and allow the coaching conversation to unfold through the use of great questions that help them to think, you’ll be surprised at what you hear. It isn’t what you expected, and that’s a good thing. It’s a reminder to you and to them that they are smart, complete, and fully aware of the changes they need to make. Accept what you hear, and continue to be a catalyst to help them make it happen.
4. Remember that what gets written down gets done. Goals and action steps toward reaching those goals should be recorded as the foundation for your coaching relationship. Drafting the action plan is not your responsibility – see #3 above. The person you are coaching will be responsible for drafting and updating their action plan. This plan becomes the underpinning for each of your meetings, helping to maintain the focus of your coaching conversations.
5. Prepare to do more listening and asking questions than they do. This seems like the simplest thing to do, but most leaders are great talkers and find it difficult. Because #3 is so important, listening and asking becomes an essential part of helping your staff to learn and develop. Once you fully embrace that, you will more easily find your way to listening deeply and asking the questions that are important for the person you are coaching.
Many leaders find coaching their staff one of the most satisfying aspects of their job. If you are interested in doing so, you just need to start. You’ll soon be able to enjoy the progress your staff makes.
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and the president of Aspire Collaborative Services, LLC, a leadership solutions firm. She also blogs about the importance of workplace relationships to leaders at www.aspire-cs.com.