Exactly when did the term, “coaching” begin to be something of dread and fear, at least in the workplace? Those “doing” the coaching dread it. And, those being “coached” not only dread it, they often fear it, too. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
For most people, coaching isn’t intuitive or an innate skill. Instead, it is a set of skills that must be learned, practiced, refined, and honed over time. Sadly, this is often considered a luxury and not a priority. And, often a promotion within the organization is coupled with managing people. Usually this is done this way to justify compensation at a higher rate. Doesn’t matter whether the candidate has competence or skills in this area. A luxury. Rarely a priority. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
What coaching isn’t. And, should never be:
- Annual “event” where leaders of people are required to complete a written “assessment” of someone’s work. < Gasp> And their “job performance”. Few people are skilled at doing any of this well, thereby setting the situation up to do more harm than good. <Visible shudder>
- Occasion for the leader to provide “feedback”. Said differently, a lecture as to how the direct report should, or should not, complete the work, behave, engage with others, and do better.
- A way to justify someone’s higher salary.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
What coaching should be:
- Opportunity for engaging in a dialog of the type where all may contribute equally and without fear of reprisal.
- Provided formally and informally, whenever the occasion arises.
- Occasion for brainstorming together.
Let’s begin with intention. Coaching well definitely takes intention. Meaning…well, all kinds of things. Making a plan to spend the time. Setting the time aside. Scheduling to meet with your people when he/she/they can meet. Meeting your people where they are –emotionally, proficiency, professionally, and whenever possible, their physical location, too.
Dictionary.com definition: constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind. In other words, keep your eye on the proverbial “ball”. Or, in this case the work of your people. Sure, you have other responsibilities, but none of them are more important as the success of your people. All of it matters.
This one should be intuitive, but often isn’t. Metrics and sets of expectations shouldn’t vary widely from one discussion to the next. Do the same with the tone and how the discussion occurs. Consistency is likely the number one way that your people will learn to trust the process and lose their fear from circumstances in their past.
Let’s add attention too. As a leader of people, you’ll need to pay attention to the work of your people, at all times and in all places. Of course, you can’t be everywhere. But, you need to try. In other words, come up with strategies that work and can be there when you aren’t.
Doing This Well
- Keep stellar notes.
- Ask for permission to share an insight or key data that you believe will help your direct report.
- Chat with your people “just because”.
- Mean everything you say.
- Follow up, as promised.
- Deliver on the promises made.
- Enjoy them as people with real lives.
- Use actions and words to let your people know that you’ve got their “backs”. You can’t do this too much.
Do these things and your people will follow you to the ends of the earth.
P.S. If you are a leader with direct reports and who dreads one-on-one time with them, please do yourself a favor and remove yourself from that role. You’ll remain stressed and challenged in your work and no one needs that.