In last month’s post, we talked about giving advice to solve someone’s problem – and why it’s usually better to keep quiet, helping them to come up with the answer instead. This is one element of being an expert coach – someone who listens, probes, and facilitates the answer from the person they’re coaching, instead of giving it. These little ‘coaching conversations’ are the most effective ways to unlock someone’s potential, and this month we’re going to explore their power, and how to embed them into daily life.
What coaching is – and what it isn’t
Do you want a team of people that feel empowered, trusted and full of potential – leaving you to do less micro-managing, and freeing up your time? Of course you do – and the best way to get that is by coaching them.
It’s simple; it can be done it 10 minutes or less each time; and it should happen little and often through normal conversation, not as a formal ‘date in the diary’. It’s about active listening – hearing the person talk about a problem they’ve got, asking them questions about it, and finding out whether there are any other issues under the surface. It’s about discovering what’s really going on, and getting them to come up with a plan to sort it.
Coaching is not training. It’s not telling someone how to do something; it’s not giving advice about what you would do in a certain situation; and it’s not giving someone a list of jobs to do to develop their skills. It’s about helping the person to come up with the answers themselves, and gradually empowering them to grow.
The Coaching Effect
Coaching your team is good for them, and it’s good for you – you’re unlocking their potential, which will ultimately free up your time, and will improve your performance and morale all round. You’ll be making a real difference, and it doesn’t even cost a huge amount of time.
If this is new to you, it’s all going to feel a bit strange. You may be used to giving advice, and having your role as an expert who adds value praised and rewarded. Your team do things the way you tell them, and you’re in control. Asking questions to your team about how things are done, and getting answers back that are different to the usual way, can feel uncomfortable. It can feel as though you’ve lost control – and you have, but that’s ‘empowerment’ and it’s what you want.
Handing some power to your team can be difficult, but it’s well worth the effort. An empowered team directly counteracts the negative habits that so many workplaces are prone to – too much dependence on others; overwhelm; and disconnect.
Coaching eliminates overdependence: if you’ve trained your team to be reliant on you – ie, to double check everything with you first – you’ve created two problems: one, they will never feel they can do the job properly alone, and two, you’ve got your work to do, and their work to check. This is frustrating for everyone. Changing to a coaching approach gives your team permission to learn self-reliance, self-belief and increases their autonomy, which reduces the time you need to spend helping them.
Coaching reduces overwhelm: if you’re constantly helping your team, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed by the workload. Overwhelm means less focus, less effectiveness, and more overwhelm – it’s a vicious cycle. Giving your team the confidence to be more autonomous, solve problems for themselves and produce work of the right quality will reduce the amount of checking up you need to do – which will allow you a little breathing space to concentrate on your own responsibilities.
Coaching reconnects you: your value is not in doing your team’s work for them – it’s in bringing it all together. So the more time you spend doing theirs instead of yours, the more disconnected you will feel from your purpose, and the reason you’re in your position. Your motivation will start to dip and your output will be at risk of going from ‘great’ to ‘fine’ to ‘average’ – which in turn can cause overwhelm as you try to get it back to where it was. Coaching reinforces everyone’s purpose – it gets team members to reconnect with their work, and you to reconnect with yours.
How to do it
Coaching is all about listening, so you need to get your team to talk. Here are a few questions you could use to kickstart your new coaching conversations:
- What’s on your mind?
- And what else?
- What’s the REAL challenge here for you?
- What outcome do you want?
- How can I help?
- What would you like to say/do in the ideal situation?
- What’s stopping you from doing/saying that?
- What might stop you from doing/saying that in real life?
It’s not easy to change your habits – but build a new coaching habit, through small daily conversations that involve open questions with answers you really listen to, and you will get a new way of working that will change the team atmosphere, morale and productivity for the better. If you’d like to find out more about building and nurturing your coaching conversations, contact me today for a free chat – and sign up here for some useful tips for First Time Managers: https://kasiamurphyconsulting.co.uk/first-time-managers/