Simply defined, coaching is the activity where one person guides another through a process, leading to performance enhancement. The applications can vary… support to achieve a specific project, helping an individual to do better what they already do well, or developing a skill they don't yet possess. As is evident, this is precisely what a manager has to do with members of the team. As a manager, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work. According to recent research, the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching. And here are five key skills you’ll need in order to become an effective coach:
It is vital to create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively. And this can be achieved by focusing completely on what your team member has to say, through active listening. Listen – with an open mind, without any bias or preconception – with your full attention. A manager can learn the maximum about a team member by deep listening with absolutely no judgment. How deeply you listen critically affects the quality and result of coaching, in creating confidence, self-awareness, and learning. Trust and intimacy between you and your team member are built on your listening skills.
A good coach adopts an ‘ask’ approach rather than a ‘tell’ approach. You, as a manager, are an expert. And you are perhaps used to telling people what to do. This would work well in some situations, but in a coaching conversation, it’s better to elicit and ask, rather than direct and tell. So as much as you’re dying to just get on with it by providing the answers, you need to restrain yourself! Use open ended questions that encourage and help your team member to find their own answers. Allow them to state their goals and face their challenges. Use your questioning skills to gently point them in the right direction. This will help them prioritize and strategize better.
Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, says that empathy is basically the ability to understand others’ emotions. He also, however, notes that at a deeper level, it is about defining, understanding, and reacting to the concerns and needs that underlie others’ emotional responses and reactions. Empathy is a skill that can be developed and, as with most interpersonal skills, empathising, at some level, comes naturally to most people. The ability to empathise is critical to being a good coach. It helps you to accept your team member on his or her own terms, and also makes it easier for you to be sensitive to the things that are important to him or her. It helps increase rapport, and strengthens the coaching relationship.
Accountability is the ability to hold attention on what is important for your team member, and to leave the responsibility with the team member to take action. It promotes your team members’ self-discipline and holds them accountable for what they say they are going to do, for the results of an intended action, or for a specific plan with related time frames. It also helps when they do not take agreed-upon actions. Your team members need encouragement from you to help them achieve their goals independently. It’s useful to build accountability for the employee’s side of formulating and implementing plans that will help them achieve these goals. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness.
Successful coaching entails providing feedback that is clear, relevant, non-evaluative and helpful. Poor or incomplete feedback can stifle your team members and could cause feelings of inadequacy in them. Make feedback a collaborative process intended to help your team member. Provide feedback that’s sincere, specific and timely.
Coaching will build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership of their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak. So use your coaching skills as part of your management responsibility. And see your team members at their professional best!