Managers are often told to “coach” their employees for better performance or behavior. And they do. Many do it well, but others don’t really know how to coach someone. Why should they? It’s a skill and like any other, it must be learned.
Most managers and supervisors, however, do not have the time or inclination to do what it takes to fully develop their coaching skills. (After many years as a lawyer, it still took me a year and a half of course work and 100 hours of coaching practice to become a certified professional coach!) So here’s a shortcut: a very brief lesson in how to listen and ask questions like a coach.
Coaching consists primarily of listening intently to what’s said (and unsaid) and asking questions. Several types of questions are most effective:
(1) Open-ended as opposed to yes-no questions
(2) Questions that begin with “What….?” E.g.,
- What does success mean to you?
- What is stopping you from doing x?
- What are your choices?
- What would energize you?
- What’s another way to look at that?
- What do you need in order to accomplish x?
(3) Questions that reflect back what the employee said, e.g.,
- You use the word “unfair.” What does that mean to you?
- I hear you saying “you feel best when …..” Tell me more about that.
How do these questions transform a conversation? They show respect for the employee because you’re engaging in a real exchange, not lecturing or giving directives. They require the employee to think and not just react or complain. And they open up both of your minds to different ways to see and address a problem.
Of course, you also need to effectively close the conversation. Again, coaching questions can help you do this: What are you going to do or not do? When are you going to do it? How can I help? The answers to these questions can be memorialized in an email if appropriate. Voila, you’ve created expectations!
Will this magically solve all problems? No. Human beings are complex, as are the situations they create. Will it help? Yes. Try it and let us know how it works. And I’ll provide some further tips in future posts. ~AS