You have someone on the team who isn’t doing his fair share. The guy hasn’t been a super star but a good worker most of the time. What do you do? Option 1: Get on his case; tell him to get with the program because there are five other guys waiting to take his place. Option 2: Point out what you’ve observed; ask him what’s happening. Option 3: Ignore the sliding performance and hope it gets better.
Don’t go all sanctimonious and say, “Of course, only Option 2!”
With others pressuring us to do more with less and less as well as trying to have a life outside of work, most of us have done Option 1…at least once or twice. It seems faster, more straightforward. We tell ourselves: we weren’t hired to baby people; these are adults; it’s time they take responsibility for themselves.
And, let’s be honest, Option 3 is just easier than listening to that employee give us all sorts of sob stories or 100 excuses or blame someone else on the team for being mean.
Option 2 is the coaching approach. At first blush, it takes more time. You’ll need to be honest and describe the situation. You’ll need to listen and actually hear what the team member has to say – without interrupting and disagreeing. You’ll need to believe that employee has potential to succeed. You have to want to create a win/win outcome – success for the team member and success for the team. You have to want change and be willing to help the change happen.
Why should you take the time?
Before answering that question, consider these questions: What’s the employee turnover in your organization and on your team? How long does it take to train a new employee? What’s the morale in your work environment? If something critical happened, would your team “walk on hot coals” for you? What will happen if you do nothing?
Good coaching helps reduce turnover, which reduces training costs. Good coaching increases morale, which increases productivity. And when something critical happens, your team will walk on hot coals to help the team succeed. Plus, you may help an average performer who slid down to a poor performer become a superstar. All in all, productivity can sky rocket when managers are good coaches.
On the other hand, you might choose to ignore the issue. If you do, you’ll lose credibility and team performance will slide across the board. You’ll work harder with poorer results. If you think this is an exaggeration, think of the manager whom you didn’t respect or trust.
Or you could stick to the telling mode and use your position as your primary influencer. From a position of authority, it is true you can dictate quite a bit; but you’ll never unlock the full potential of your team. In fact, you’ll never know how much potential your team really has until you do more than influence with either the spoken or unspoken “because I’m the boss.”
What does it take to become a good coach?
It depends on your motives. If you want the best people working in your organization and you want the best for the people who work in your organization, then you are in a good starting place.
You can become a good coach if you believe and act on five components:
- You are honest and you expect honesty in return.
- You listen without judging and you believe what your team member tells you.
- You look for and encourage the team member to seek the win/win outcome.
- You believe in the potential of the team member.
- You want change to occur and are willing to help move the change along.
Without all five, a lot of talking may happen but not coaching and probably very little improving.
Veteran managers who have been reading this article may fall into two camps: The “who are you kidding?” camp finds the description on coaching to be Pollyanna and unlikely to work; the “heading in the right direction” camp are considering how their coaching experiences fit or don’t fit into the five component framework. Whether you fit into one of these two camps or in another one altogether, use the points made above to have discussions with your peers and colleagues about coaching and how it can help you improve the performance of your teams and organization.