5 Essential Coaching Tips for Busy Leaders

Guest contributor Terry Lipovski is the president of Ubiquity, a preeminent provider of leadership development services around the world. HR professionals interested in contributing to Reinventing HR can email hello@reflektive.com.

We hear a lot of high level buzz about why it is important for leaders to coach their teams, but very little about how this looks from a day-to-day perspective. Here are some practical tips, tricks and hacks that can help you help your team become better tomorrow than they were yesterday.

Assume Positive Intention

Coaching is a unique leadership technique that works best when the leader is in the right frame of mind. Few employees wants to be seen as weak, so admitting they need help and direction requires solid trust and rapport with their leader. Try to approach coaching interactions by being open-minded, non-judgmental and always assuming positive intent. When your people feel it is safe to admit vulnerabilities, coaching will reap rewards for all.

Try to approach coaching interactions by being non-judgmental and always assuming positive intent. Click To Tweet

Be Switzerland

That is, go someplace neutral. Choose a location for coaching where neither of you will be interrupted, such as a breakout room or even go for a walk around the block.

When to Coach?

Here is a one-on-one routine that seems to be well received by many leaders. Schedule a one-hour coaching session, once per month and stick to a developmental conversation. Try to make these live if possible, or at least over video, as non-verbal communication builds engagement and rapport. During the three weeks in between these sessions, schedule 30-minute “touch base” meetings or calls to check in on operational objectives, progress of various projects and day-to-day matters. This pattern repeats monthly and usually results in fewer unnecessary team meetings and more personal support. After all, you can’t motivate a team, you can only motivate each individual team member, one at a time.

Try coaching instead of resolving, and your team and organization will thank you for it.

Many leaders say that when their people come forward with an issue they need help with, it is easier and quicker for the leader to simply take if off their hands and do it. This can be true, but from a more strategic perspective, this approach does not build problem-solving skills and an entrepreneurial attitude within the team. The next time someone brings an issue to your attention, try coaching instead of resolving, and your team and organization will thank you for it.

The 4-Step Coaching Model

Good leaders reply on systems and processes. When engaging your people in a developmental conversation, it is useful to follow a series of steps that will help guide the discussion in productive ways.

  1. Goal: They (not you) choose which mountain to climb. Letting them choose their goal builds intrinsic motivation. Use your own words and ask what they would like to become “even better at.” This approach avoid the implication that they are doing things wrong. Gently guide the conversation if need be, but avoid being judgmental. Lastly, ask where they are now and use this to bridge to the second step.
  2. Plan: This is a two-step. Brainstorm, and then organize it into a plan. Start by asking what they might have done already to work toward their goal. Useful questions here include “How’s that been working for you?” and “What else can you think of to help you reach your goal?” Be curious like a talk-show host, and keep asking open-ended questions aimed at what they can do to achieve their goal. D x V + FS > R2C. Dissatisfaction x Vision + First Steps will overcome Resistance to Change. Promote ownership, accountability and responsibility. This is often the hardest step for managers because they default to solving problems, not uncovering motivations and incentives. You are an explorer, not a repair man. When the plan starts to take shape, keep it organized: who does what, when.
  3. Pause: Consider the obstacles. Have you ever heard someone say “Oh, we didn’t anticipate that!” Don’t let that happen. Intentionally stop after the planning phase to think deeply and laterally about how this will play out. Who else needs to be involved? What other competing agendas might trump ours? Look ahead at the calendar to see if there are other initiatives that might conflict. Consider people’s reactions. You’ll be glad you did.
  4. Execute: Think of each step as a small project that must be managed. Are S.M.A.R.T. goals assigned?
Letting employees choose their goal builds intrinsic motivation. Click To Tweet

Facilitate and Communicate

Coaching is all about facilitating the growth of your people. That means that they will be doing most, if not all of the work. As they develop new habits, gaining small wins and making developmental progress, encourage them to keep you posted and in the loop so that you know where they are at well before your monthly coaching session. Keeping track of the progress is vital, and writing it down allows reflection, learning and shortens developmental cycles. After all, what gets measured gets done.

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