Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

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Leaders know that coaching their personnel produces a “markedly positive” impact on performance, culture and results. Yet coaching is one of the tools least used by leaders. Why?

The common excuse is that there is no time for the slow, tedious work of teaching/mentoring employees when trying to succeed in our competitive, high pressure economy. Another explanation is that coaching can be complicated and involved, and there’s concern about failing at the process. Yet it’s these employees whose performance delivers success; they are the organization’s most sustainable competitive advantage.

More than ever, leaders must find time to coach. How can coaching be made less complex and more efficient?

In his book, The Coaching Habit, Michael Bungay Stanier offers these suggestions for leaders:
  • Identify the type of coaching required. Most coaching focuses on a performance issue, to help resolve a specific challenge. The dialogue around this issue is usually well-defined and the challenge for the leader is to guide the employee to a resolution rather than hurrying the process and specifying it. People don’t learn, and become more dependent on the leader, if the learning process is short-circuited.  This also ensures a continued parade of issues that demand the leader’s time versus helping an employee develop some autonomy.

The more complex coaching challenge involves coaching for development, which turns the focus from the issue to the person dealing with it. The process is more time consuming since it focuses on helping the employee learn, improve and grow. Fortunately, this process is more rare and can be better time-managed.

  • Ask one question at a time, and do more listening than talking. When presented with a coaching opportunity, get to the point by asking “What’s on your mind?” Await a response before proceeding.

If clarification is needed, ask which facet of the situation is involved. Is it about the project’s content (most common), or about a person (typically requiring role clarification in a relationship), or about a pattern of behavior that are constraining progress?  Ask: “Where should we start?”

These suggestions can accelerate resolution while providing a learning experience. They simplify and focus the coaching process.

What is your current coaching style?
How much time do you dedicate to coaching your team?