You never become an expert at coaching.
You can get good at it. You might even become great at it. But you never fully master coaching. Don’t feel bad. It’s only because there is always more to learn. There are always new approaches to discover. There is always a better way.
Some of these tips you might know. Some may be new to you. This is precisely the point. You can always add more to your toolbox and become a better coach. So try a few of these out on your next session with a direct report.
1. Don’t Go in With a Plan
It’s very easy to go in with a game plan for coaching. You might have a preconceived idea that you’ve created yourself from looking at the reports and the numbers. But once you’re sitting side by side with the person, nine times out of ten, you’ll learn the narrative doesn’t fit.
Just make a plan to sit with your direct report and look for opportunities for improvement. It’s not what they’re doing wrong. It’s about how can you make them better. They might be achieving all of their KPIs, but there still may be areas you can develop them in.
2. Avoid Offering Too Many Action Items
You don’t want to give someone a laundry list of items they need to work on. It will be demotivating for the individual if they’re not expecting it. They may also think they’re not doing anything right.
Stick to one development area where the individual can focus their energy. Pick something that will be the biggest bang for buck. If they can see improvement, it will motivate them when you have other areas they need to work on. You never know, they may even pick up on these things themselves.
3. Create a Development Plan
Even your top performers should have a development plan. It gives them something to work on and strive for. A quarterly program is a good start. Aim for a focus area each month and discuss how you both work together towards achieving goals or objectives.
It’s vital to have a measurement for success. How will you determine what is working and what needs to be adjusted to ensure progress is made? It doesn’t need to be overly complicated. The development plan should be something that you both can refer back to during coaching sessions.
4. Build Upon the Positives
A coaching session should never end with you saying you’re doing everything perfect or no feedback from me. You should discuss what the individual is doing well and their strengths. Your discussion should then turn to how to further develop these abilities.
If you’ve set this up well with your team members, they will be excited by the prospect of improving. The key is to frame the conversation that development is not a negative or because they’re doing something wrong. It is to continue to build upon existing skills and continuously improve.
5. Follow Up
Coaching is not a set and forget activity. You don’t always need to have formal sessions. Continue to check in with your team members and ask how the implementation of the action points is progressing. If you have a spare five or ten minutes, sit with them and make the most of the time together.
Following up also gives confidence to your direct reports that you care about their development and improving their abilities. You’ve also got a better chance of moving forward with the individual instead of always focusing on the same thing in each coaching session.
Coaching Needs to be a Priority
Many leaders don’t make coaching as big a priority as they should. They’re too busy with meetings, projects, and answering emails. However, this is where your ability to say no needs to come into play. Explain to your manager that taking on extra duties will mean you won’t be able to dedicate time to coaching and development. The result could mean lost revenue or a reduction in customer service. So, take an assessment of the time in your day and make sure you set aside time for coaching your direct reports.
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