Written by: Lori Li
Coaching is crucial to keeping today's employees engaged and productive. With the fast pace of today's workplace, employees need to keep current with the new skills needed to thrive in their jobs.
According to research from Deloitte, the average lifespan of a workplace skill is between two and five years. Not only that, but most millennial employees expect their managers to help them reach a new level.
Add it all up, and managers need to invest in developing their employees. By doing so, you can keep your employees’ skills sharp while ensuring they’re capable of producing at their full potential. With the skill lifespan shortening and millennials dominating the workplace, a great deal of weight falls on the shoulders of people just like you.
To prepare for these changes, you need to learn how to continually incorporate coaching into your everyday managerial life to help your team members develop their skills.
With that in mind, here are the five key tactics to integrate coaching into your managerial style.
1. Speak last
Coaching is about learning and letting the team members figure it out on their own. So when there's a team meeting and you need to discuss how to do something or come up with ideas, make sure you’re the person who speaks last.
Why is that?
For starters, since you’re in charge, everyone on the team will listen to you because you have the most authority. If you speak first, you will unconsciously limit your team members' imagination because they will start thinking about the solution the way you do.
One example of this is dealing with a problem in performance management. If you speak first and start talking about the number of meetings needed to conduct a performance assessment properly, what do you think will happen?
Most of your team members will start thinking that the number of meetings is the problem.
But what they won't do is think about other aspects of performance management that could also be problematic. For example:
- They won't think about upgrading the technology used for the meeting
- They won't think about the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect
- They won't think about the methodology used for the performance assessment
When you speak first, you limit your team members' scope of thought to a single "lane" of thinking about the solution.
Not only does this stifle your own creativity, but it stifles your team members' creativity, too. They will already know what you're thinking about and will go along with your idea.
On the other hand, when you speak last, you're forcing your team members to develop solutions to the problems, find new ways to look at the issues, and come up with ideas all by themselves.
By speaking last, you are able to take everyone’s ideas and decide which are best to push forward. By doing so, you will know that your team is supporting the best idea—not just the one you pushed forward just because "you're the manager."
2. Ask about their thought process
The thought process distinguishes a good decision from pure luck.
Sometimes, we can make a wrong decision but be lucky enough to get good results. But if you, as a manager, want to develop and coach your team members, you need to make sure that they have a good thought process behind their decisions.
To do that, ask them about their thought processes directly:
- How did you come up with this solution?
- What variables did you think about when coming up with this idea?
- Why do you think this is the right decision to make in a situation like this?
This establishes the way your team members think about a particular problem and solution. You're getting a sneak peek into their mind. Armed with this information, you can give them feedback so that they improve.
It's not enough to just be right. You need to be correct for all the right reasons. Teach your team members to have a process behind every decision and make sure that they aren't just lucky-guessing but have a process guiding them.
3. Let them decide
This is one of the crucial tactics for managers. But it's one of the hardest to implement.
Not because it’s complicated—quite the contrary. But often, what is simple to do isn't always easy to do.
When you're managing, your primary concern is hitting goals and targets. But when you're coaching, you're thinking about developing your team members. And the way they develop and gain accountability is by having the opportunity to make decisions.
Truth be told, those decisions will sometimes prove to be wrong. Still, empowering your employees is one of the best ways you can teach them critical decision-making and leadership skills—even if they’re wrong.
When people win, they celebrate. When people fail or lose, they learn from their mistakes. So, find a way to let your employees take risks to make decisions and make sure that they stick with those decisions. It doesn't have to be anything big. But you need to find a way to let your team members make decisions and then be accountable for the consequences of those decisions.
For example, you could have a team member decide on the next meeting's topic and prepare in advance to lead the meeting. You could also pick out the next team-building activity. If that doesn’t float your boat, you could create a micro-project regarding education and devote a small budget to it.
Any one of these ideas is an opportunity for your team members to practice decision-making and hold themselves accountable. That's how they will grow up to be leaders.
4. Read between the lines—use emotional intelligence
As a manager, you will always have problems and difficult situations in your team. But as you already know, team members aren’t always upfront when it comes to discussing the root causes of problems.
The real problem is always hidden. When you face difficult situations, this is where you need to "listen with your eyes and look with your ears."
We transfer a message mostly using our body language and our tone of voice. Only a small fraction—around 7 percent—is conveyed with words.
Phrased another way, the words themselves won’t always tell you the truth of the matter. Sometimes, you’ll have to dig deeper to uncover why problems reared their ugly heads in the first place.
This is where the "5 Why" technique comes into play.
The "5 Why" technique lets you get to the root problem of why something happened. It's fairly easy to use: You ask "why" something happened five times until you get to the core (root) reason for the problem.
Here's an example:
Mark was a star performer on his team. But his performance crumbled over the past few months. We can use the "5 Why" technique to figure out why it happened:
- Why? – He doesn't report to work regularly (the first why).
- Why? – He is not motivated to work with the team (the second why).
- Why? – The tasks he performs on the team don't interest him (the third why).
- Why? – The tasks assigned to him are monotonous in nature (the fourth why).
- Why? – The job profile mismatches with his skill levels and aspirations (the fifth why and the root cause).
5. Talk about the future steps
Coaching isn't just talking. Coaching is taking action.
One of the tactics you can use to integrate coaching into your leadership style is to always focus on future steps.
Coaching isn't just about why something happened. It’s about what the person will do to make sure they improve so that the situation doesn't happen again.
To help you team avoid making the same mistakes twice, ask these questions whenever bad things happen:
- How did we get here? This helps you see if they understand the causal relationships that got the team into the situation.
- Where are we at? This helps you understand the accurate picture of reality.
- What will we do to prevent this from happening again? This helps you see whether they have a solution to the problem and how they might implement it.
Focusing on these questions will help you talk about future steps with team members that can help the organization avoid running into the same problems in the future.
Ready to become a more impactful coach?
Being a manager is no easy task. You need to hit numbers and meet quotas, and you are measured for it.
In order to succeed, you need a strong team behind you. By incorporating coaching into your managerial style, it’s much easier to make sure you have that.
Remember the following five maxims:
- Speak last
- Ask about their thought process
- Let them decide
- Read between the lines—use emotional intelligence, and
- Talk about the future steps
By doing so, you’ll integrate coaching into your managerial style, and your team, customers, and organization will be better off because of it.