“You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers.”–Monique Valcour on Coaching in Harvard Business Review
Coaching is part of the day to day interaction between a leader or manager and an employee who reports to you. As a coach, you will work with your people to bring out the best in them. An effective way to do that is by listening. In fact, talking to one of your team members involves as much listening as speaking.
Recognizing your team’s individual skillsets, takes time, effort, and familiarity. How well do you know your team? How familiar are you with the skills of your team? How well do you know what motivates members of your team? Leadership involves a blend of directing and coaching. Coaching your team involves recognizing and applying their skillsets in the best application to achieve the goals of the entire team.
1. Be Present.
Turn off the phone, and listen to your team member when you meet with them. FOCUS on what your people are trying to tell you. Instead of applying your intentions on them, listen to what they want to contribute to your goals, and the obstacles they feel they are facing.
2. Ask What’s on Their Mind.
Don’t steer or drive the conversation. Open it up with your question and then WAIT for them to speak. Give them the chance to take the opportunity to say what they are thinking about. It was important enough to bring to you, respect them enough to make it important enough to hear. Respect is a big facet of coaching your team.
3. Focus on What They Say.
Is it a personal problem or an office problem? If it is an office problem, is it related to a specific project? You can’t know how to address it until you know what to address. There is one way to learn; ask, then focus on what they say.
4. Don’t Fear the Silence.
Giving them silence, gives you time to reflect on potential solutions. It also gives them time to answer the question: “Is this a personal problem, a project issue or an office problem?”
5. Ask “And What Else?”
After you listen, repeat it back and add the phrase: “and what else?” By repeating what was said, you ensure understanding of what they intended to say. But it has another benefit. People rarely vocalize the actual problem and the phrase “and what else?” draws the real topic out.
A friend worked 15 years in an airline customer service department for fifteen years. People would scream about their damaged or lost luggage. Over time, he learned to recognize the true concern behind the rant. Were they upset because they needed papers or toiletries in the luggage? Toiletries were easy to replace, while their luggage was located and the problem could be solved quickly. Paperwork was more difficult to make right. By the end of the conversation, my friend calmed most people down. He filed the form to locate or compensate for the lost luggage, and quickly addressed most of their immediate issues. He was good at his work, because he had great listening skills and looked for the “what else” in every complaint.
6. Address the Principal Cause.
Once more, repeat back to them what you believe you heard as the underlying cause of their concern. You might have misunderstood their words, and this gives them the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings. Now add on these phrases: “I understand that you are working on this, and it is a problem for you. Why is it a problem for you?”
7. Ask Their Permission to Help.
Now, that you know the real issue to resolve, it’s tempting to jump in with a resolution. There’s a catch. When a team member tells you their concerns, they aren’t necessarily inviting you to fix them. Respecting your team means basically asking if you can help, not telling how you can help. You can start by asking Ask “What can I do for you?” or “How can I help with that?” You may choose not to grant their request, but listening tells them that you hear and respect them.
Coaching Through Listening
Now you can make your decision how to help your team member figure out how to resolve his or her issue. You are not there to solve all their problems. Still, by listening and guiding them, you can help them grown enough to figure out their own resolution. Want more on leadership development? Learn more about CommandReady programs here.