“One cannot teach a man anything. One can only enable him to learn from within himself.” — Galileo Galilei
Particularly for those new to management, the word ‘coaching’ can be a little daunting. Other managers throw around the word, they say they coach their team regularly, they seem so confident. But as a new manager, does someone sit you down to explain what coaching is or how to do it? Generally not. So you organise weekly meetings with your team members, get them to update you, tell them where they could improve and share your expertise – see, you’re coaching…aren’t you? Probably not.
Here are some key points for new managers to start growing their understanding of coaching. (A recommended book to enhance new and experienced managers’ understanding is “Coaching for Performance” by John Whitmore)
What is coaching?
- Coaching can be a way of managing and leading (i.e. it doesn’t have to be rolled out on special occasions!)
- Management by coaching may be informal and used frequently in communicating with staff e.g. problem solving, briefing and debriefing projects, feedback discussions, informal skill development
- Coaching can also be formal and structured as required e.g. career exploration, formal skill development
- The foundational element to coaching is asking questions
- Through questions, a coach helps the employee think about the situation and come up with their own answers
- Coaching questions help raise awareness in the coachee and ultimately guide them to take responsibility for choices and actions
What are the benefits of coaching?
- When someone comes up with their own options and answers, they feel more in control and engaged with the situation and are more likely to follow through with actions
- Coaching helps develop employees and encourages application and retention of skills
- Ultimately staff who are coached can enhance performance and improve productivity
- As your staff develop their skills and confidence, and own their actions, it will save you time – less chasing and instructing!
- Asking questions, listening and responding appropriately will have profound impacts on interactions with your staff – they will feel valued and that you care about their opinions, they will grow in confidence, they will feel motivated and they will likely develop their professional skills (of course, some people may take time to respond if they have relied on being told what to do and think!)
Is it only about questions?
- Management by coaching may also involve situations where you do provide advice or instruction
- The balance of ‘ask’ vs. ‘tell’ will depend on the level of motivation and skill of the individual
- Even when you think more ‘tell’ is needed, hold off and ask a question or two first e.g. “How do you think we could approach this?”, “What do you think the first step might be?”; you never know, you might have made an incorrect assumption about the level of ‘tell’ required
- If you do need to do some ‘tell’, always follow with a question to involve the employee e.g. “What do you think of that?”, “What other options do you see?”
- The other key aspect to coaching is listening; engage with your employee, don’t give in to other distractions and truly listen!
When should I be coaching?
- As you practice your coaching skills, you will realise that most discussions with staff will be enhanced through coaching questions – engaging them in the discussion, presentation or decision-making (of course there are times when it may not be appropriate e.g. serious performance issues, crisis situations)
- Try starting with the regular one-on-one meetings you have with your team members; if they are updating you, ask them questions e.g. “What’s going well on this project?”, “What are the major challenges you’ve faced?”, “What are your next steps?”
- Try questions when an employee comes to you with a problem; instead of solving it for them, see if they can solve it themselves! e.g. “What’s the background to this issue?”, “What have you tried already?”, What are your options for dealing with this?”, “What do you think should be done from here?”
- When a team member asks you for feedback on something they have done – ask for their input first e.g. “What do you think you did well?” (the good stuff first is a must!) “What could you have done differently?” It’s ok to then provide your own feedback – having their input first is important
Is there a structure I should use?
- One of the world’s most widely used coaching frameworks is the GROW model. Developed by John Whitmore and colleagues (Performance Consultants) it provides guidance on areas to explore that will help raise awareness and responsibility in the coachee
Goal: explore the goal of the discussion
Reality: explore the current situation
Options: explore the alternative actions
Will: determine what WILL be done, when, by whom and the WILL to do it
- If you find a model difficult, just start by asking open questions with the aim of truly understanding a situation and the employee’s perspective (open coaching questions are commonly those beginning with “What”, although other starters like “When”, “How” or “Which” may be used)
- Once you start using GROW, you will see the benefits of the discussion steps; after a while you will likely find that you are not even conscious of following a ‘model’ – you are simply having a productive conversation
How will I know what to ask?
- If you truly engage with and actively listen to your employee, you will know where to go – have an open mind and an attitude of honestly wanting to explore the situation with them; if you don’t bring this openness and authenticity, then you might struggle
- In knowing what to ask, this is where GROW is useful – it gives you some guidance in an easy to remember model. As nicely summarised by John Whitmore, the process is basically variations on the following:
What do you want? GOAL
What is happening? REALITY
What could you do? OPTIONS
What will you do? WILL
- If you have time to prepare for a discussion, you could write down some questions that might prompt you; try writing GROW down the left-hand side of your notepad, with one or two questions next to it
Coaching is an exciting, fulfilling and efficient way of enhancing your management style. As you understand and practice, it becomes a way of managing and leading with great results.
engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching
Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!
© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd