The other day on social media, the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, had a “conversation” about the role of employee coaching. I’m not sure a social media forum really offers the best venue to discuss employee coaching but some interesting comments were made.
We’ve also written about coaching on our blogs but after reading some of these comments from the forum, I’m thinking more needs to be written or said about employee coaching.
A theme that came up in the forum was centered around accountability, goal setting, making sure expectations are met and the penalties if they are not met. While these are important, and it is important to get work done, the role of a coach is not about being a traditional manager or making sure people are held accountable to make sure the goals are met. It’s more about providing guidance, support and help to those who actually do the work so they will meet expectations.
Another comment that kind of goes along with the accountable for goals theme was coaches will be at fault if those goals aren’t met, and, yes, that may be true but the employee coach should be looking more at helping other people succeed.
To help others succeed requires a specific set of skills and creating an environment or culture that lets employees know they are valued and important and that they have a voice about the work they do and the decisions that impact them. An article from Forbes describes just that. It says top leadership in today’s organizations has to develop a mindset that is focused around employees and that includes acting as coaches. Employees don’t want to be told how to do things. They want supervisors and managers help them learn, develop skills and help them succeed.
Several years ago we did some supervisory training for a team-based workplace. We told the supervisors they would need to use a facilitative style as they took on the role of a coach. In other words, a coach needs to demonstrate techniques a facilitator uses in meetings to help groups with process. That style includes having to listen more instead of telling employees what to do. Traditional management has meant supervisors and managers provide directives to employees to get the work done. That’s not the case as a coach.
It’s about asking appropriate questions to get employees to think or come up with effective solutions. Solutions being plural because there usually is no one single answer to a possible problem. Sometimes those questions may mean getting more than a “yes” or “no” response and that’s where the importance of listening comes to play. The questions have to be asked in such a way that encourage more thought.
These questions, though, must not be seen as manipulation but a genuine interest in guiding and getting employees to think about their approach to issues they face. There may be times when questioning may not be needed because employees are smart and they can tell if they are being manipulated so this all has to be done with sincerity and trust. That also is in the Forbes article about the necessity for leaders or coaches to build trust with employees. It also includes creating positive relationships to help employees learn and improve their skills.
Being a coach also means accepting risk and possible failure. There may be times when a coach is going to have to let the team, or an employee, go its own way. What has been decided may or may not work. When it doesn’t work, that can be a teachable moment. It can be a time to reevaluate what happened but it’s also about trusting employees to want to do the right thing and that’s an important part of being a coach. Trust goes both ways.
Another thing that’s important with coaching is patience. We live in instantaneous world. Technology has given responses at our fingertips but human interaction can take some time especially starting out. I have mentioned this in other blogs but it is vitally important when trying to change culture or build a relationship. It’s not something that happens overnight and it does take work.
Sometimes it can mean having to say “I’m sorry, ” which may be difficult for some but absolutely necessary. Being humble enough to do that will help to show a coach is human, too. Mistakes are going to happen. They happen all the time to all of us. Even in this technology advanced era we live in machines and robots also make mistakes.
We’ve provided examples in previous blogs of supervisors, managers, and business owners who take an interest in their employees and help them to become the best. A couple of weeks ago, we highlighted one from the Boston Fed web pages who refused a pay check so her employees would have one. It’s that type of attitude or mentality that’s needed to create a winning environment for a coach.
It’s true not all employees are going to want this kind of experience but most will. It doesn’t depend on the type of work that is being performed. It works good in the manufacturing sector, in an office, a service type job, or any other work environment. It is about learning what motivates an employee. Each employee is different but being a coach is learning about employees.
The article also says creating this kind of environment can provide huge rewards and it can. We’ve seen it many times. It just depends on how it’s done.