This week has been busy and kind of professionally eclectic, with projects ranging from editing video for a client's marketing kick-off to facilitating the merger of two professional firms to launching the Coaching Managers to Coach eGuide (see the sidebar). I hope you'll find the free download helpful and use as many tips as possible for yourself or with your organization.
The good question that briefly delayed the eGuide launch got me thinking about how we often wait for a corporate directive to do what we already know is right. I think Coaching falls into that category.
Managers can certainly coach and in the absence of a corporate initiative or full-blown, formal training program.
Six Steps to Coaching
1. Stop fixing everyone's stuff.
OK, the next time someone brings you a problem, stop. Do nothing. Then. . .
2. Ask them for more information using open-ended questions.
You already know how to ask questions. (And you may already know the answer to the question. But no one will learn much if they don't learn to think through issues on their own). The trick for "coaching managers" is to click a mental switch that triggers a question instead of an answer. An easy way to to develop the questioning habit is to think of yourself as a journalist and start your responses with:
- Who. . .?
- What. . .?
- When. . .?
- Where. . .?
- How. . .?
3. Use the bonus question that will automatically buy some time and gather more information: "Tell me more about that?"
4. Listen. (That means "Shut up, don't speak.")
You'll be surprised at how much you'll learn by listening. Once the other person stops talking, give them space to say more. Count silently to 10 if you have to. You'll discover that this block of information will reveal more than the first and often gives them the self-revealing "Aha!" needed. In which case, you'll be a hero.
5. Ask More.
OK, so they didn't get to the heart of the matter in #4. When your person's responses and energy start to fade, that's your cue to ask another open-ended question. Ask it about something they've just told you. Ask anything that will help continue the exploration of the issue. You can't really ask a "wrong" question.
Note. The reason you can't ask a wrong question is this: Your role is to alternate between helping them explore (questions) and being silent (just listen). The act of listening after a question is a gift that few people get. Listening shows respect. When it comes from "the boss" it's an indication of trust in one's ability to problem-solve.
6. Support giving "it" a try. You'll find that the Q&A process will have generated ideas and actions in your person's mind. This is where you help them stretch by suggesting, "Do you want to give that a try and let me know how it's going?"
So, What Just Happened?
You've helped someone develop more confidence in themselves, built trust in your mutual relationship, and created a little more time for your own strategic thinking while they're working on the agreed-upon action.
If you are spending more of your managerial life answering than asking, you may be working way too hard. You may also be making yourself indispensable in your current job. That may work well if this is where you want to spend the rest of your career--and, if the job doesn't go away.
What I'm Reading
Managing Leadership's Jim Stroup has a good post, Reconciliation, that's related to this one in a way. Jim asks what happens when we step back to see what the other people around us at work really need.
Sound advice on Assuring Sustainable Learning from MaryJo Asmus.
Brett Simmons on a favorite topic of mine: The Courage to Take Moral Action.
Wally Bock's review of The Pursuit of Something Better.
The energetic article from Fistful of Talent's Jessica Lee on Social Network Recruiting = Discriminatory Hiring Practices . Looks like the lawyers are at it again.