With all the coaching that's going on, I'd expect much better results than I'm seeing.
Most bosses are adequate-to-poor coaches. They need their direct reports to get the work done, so the "coaching" is mostly checking-in to be sure that, in fact, most projects are moving forward -- and, if they're not moving forward fast enough, "coaching" is about WHEN each job will get done. If projects are far behind schedule, the "coaching" discussion is about who else can help.
A lot of today's so-called coaching comes from the old-school "command and control" approach to management. As Ron Rael wrote in the November 2015 CGMA magazine, “command and control” is an approach in which "...the leader dictates the rules and tasks while adhering to a strict chain of command. Employees are not allowed to question these 'orders'..."
Of course, there are times when a leader does need to dictate what’s needed. But coaching should involve a more personal connection with employees that is guided by a plan for helping each subordinate to grow in ways that the employee agrees will be helpful . It's individualized and oriented toward improved overall performance -- not just getting work done on time.
So can we agree that a lot of what passes for coaching isn't coaching by that definition at all -- it's admonishing people to get on the stick? In Rael's words, "Coaching is not managing ... you are using knowledge and insight to help employees come into their own wisdom.”
How can you begin to actually be a good coach?
- Not just about a person's ability to get some portion of the work assigned to your team DONE, but about the coachee's development as a leader.
- Understand what the coachee wants to accomplish -- where he or she would like to improve -- and develop a plan for working with him or her to achieve those improvements.
- Understand how challenging situations play in your coachee's mind -- not just in your own mind. This requires that you put aside your own beliefs long enough to understand how this situation looks through your coachee's eyes.
- Request information on approaches your coachee has tried -- or has considered trying – to fix problems he currently faces. And ask him to "talk you through" how each might -- or how each did -- work out. Many people continue to use approaches they’ve used in the past, no matter how seldom they’ve experienced positive results.
- Some people may not know what they would like to improve. Try offering suggestions about ways you see that improvement may be possible, and check whether the potential coachee agrees that he would like to work on those things.
- Offer "best practices" in areas where your coachee would like to improve, and ask whether such approaches seem appropriate to your coachee. Then help her think through how to implement the best practice that seems to fit -- or to come up with an idea of her own to address troubling situations.
- Once your coachee has agreed to try an approach, and has done so, ask what lessons have been learned, list those, and ask how those lessons can be applied to other challenging circumstances. Remember that doing something a new way once does NOT mean a new habit has been established!
Remember that keeping talented employees in whom you have made significant investments is often the biggest single key to your company’s improved financial results!