Manager Coaching Skills: “In The Moment” Coaching

Coaching works well when a “space” is created for it. Sometimes, however, coaching in the moment can result in big wins. Coaching in the moment involves taking on the coaching role at the time a coachable moment arises.

Say, you are in a meeting with a member of your team and a “situation” arises in the meeting. After the meeting at the earliest possible time, you can coach with the team member about what happened. Literally in the moment, in the meeting, you can coach by asking questions that do not put the team member on the spot.

The power of coaching in the moment lies in the freshness of the situation and its “real life” aspect.

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Encouraging Synergy

Do you create and encourage synergy in your team? Doing so enhances your team’s performance and creates wins all around. Synergy is defined as:

1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that the combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

2. Cooperative interaction among groups that creates an enhanced combined effect.

You hear a lot about collaboration and teamwork, but changing the perspective ever so slightly to synergy takes you beyond process to results.

Team synergy can be enhanced in a number of ways, requiring some focus on your part as a manager. You can start by looking at the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team member in light of the work you have to get done. Then, it gets interesting as you analyze who can pair together to enhance strengths and compensate for weaknesses. Here, there are multiple factors: team members’ willingness and ability to collaborate, time factors – will the results be worth possible slow starts as team members acclimate to this focus – and whether a project is set up to accommodate collaboration.

Using synergy to enhance your team’s performance asks a lot of you. Your emotional intelligence and analytical abilities will be front and center. You may have a few false starts. Team members may need some coaching to get going. In my opinion, it is worth a try – for the potential improved results and for the strengthening of your team.

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10 Things NOT To Do When Coaching A Team Member

1. Come unprepared to the coaching meeting

2. Fail to set a time frame and agenda for the coaching meeting

3. Allow interruptions, unless they are emergencies

4. Come across as judgmental, rather than constructive

5. Try too hard to please

6. Allow the coaching to reach a point of conflict

7. Lose your focus

8. Step out of your role as coach

9. Ignore or disregard what  your team member is saying

10. End the meeting without asking your team member to set some goals to accomplish by your next coaching meeting

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Manager Coaching Skills: Creating A Safe Space For Coaching

Coaching is most effective when the person receiving the coaching feels a level of safety. Safety allows them to speak honestly and know they will be treated fairly in the coaching relationship.

Here are some ways you can create a safe space when you are coaching a member of your team:

• Before the coaching begins, establish the intent and focus of the coaching, your expectations for their participation and your goals for the coaching.

• Ask them what their expectations are for the coaching and what you can do to make it work for them.

• Set the ground rules for your coaching sessions including how long you will coach, how long your coaching meetings will be, if they will have action items resulting from each coaching meeting and any boundaries for the coaching relationship.

• See yourself as a coach when you are meeting. Do not have side discussions about other aspects of your work together. You are there to create a space of motivation, support and encouragement for them to move forward.

• Make sure your feedback is constructive and periodically ask for their feedback on how the coaching is going for them.

• Acknowledge their progress, when warranted.

It is a delicate balance to be a person’s manager and to develop a safe coaching space. It deserves some critical thinking on your part. You can always incorporate coaching tools and techniques in your managing. However, when you enter into a coaching relationship with a team member you are in another territory and must define it. Another consideration involves the purpose of the coaching. Coaching intended to correct deficiencies and improve performance at a basic level is different than coaching to build skills or assist a team member in moving up in the organization. For some coaching, you may not be able to establish a completely safe space. Think about what safety you can and cannot offer, depending on the individual situation.

With safety a part of it, coaching can be a powerful tool helping managers and their teams to excel.

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Manager Coaching Skills: Keeping The Focus On Them

When coaching a team member, it may seem elementary to say keep the focus on them. In practice, however, you can easily drift away. What does keeping the focus on them in your coaching entail?

• Accepting that the coaching session is all about the person you are coaching, not about you or others in your team

• Actively listening to what they are saying and also hearing what is not being said. For example, by being aware of their body language

• Only bringing in stories or examples that are directly relevant to where you are leading the conversation (it is sometimes hard not to want to relate your own similar experiences, but this is about them and such stories or examples have to further the direction you want to go in as a coach or they can be a distraction for both of you)

• Being very clear for yourself on what the purpose, goals and desired outcome of the coaching relationship are and what benefits you want it to bring to them, your team and your organization

By keeping the focus on the person you are coaching, you will greatly enhance the probability of a successful coaching relationship and great results for both of you.

 

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Manager Coaching Skills: Valuing Both Doing And Being

In many organizations, far more value is given to doing than being. Doing is action – getting things done. Being is a quieter state – more contemplative and introspective. This emphasis on doing may be appropriate in the every day. When it comes to coaching, the value of being rises.

Why? Because coaching often involves change – change in thinking, in perspective, in motivation or outward actions for example. Sometimes underlying motives or emotions must be understood in order for real change to occur. Touching on these underlying aspects with a team member can be sensitive. One way to frame your coaching is to introduce the concepts of being and doing and give value to each.

You may be discussing an experience the team member had at work that upset them, did not further team goals or for some other reason, needs discussion. You can ask, for example, how they felt when that happened. This goes beyond what they experienced on the surface, to exploring the root of their actions or responses to the experience. You may be discussing a failure to produce the amount of work they need to. You can ask them why things are not getting done.

Valuing both doing and being in your coaching will allow you to get in touch with your team member as a whole person – their motivations, the emotional underpinnings of their actions, their perspective and their way of thinking. In doing this, you have a better chance of getting to root causes and developing both your and your team member’s understanding of what needs to change and how to do it.

 

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Manager Coaching Skills: Exploring

Once you are in a coaching relationship with someone, your understanding of his or her motivations, emotions, personality traits, and communication style becomes a factor in your ability to coach productively. One coaching method that allows you to gain this deeper understanding is to practice the skill of exploring.

There are many ways to explore: asking questions (see previous post on Asking Powerful Questions), listening carefully to what they are saying or getting to know more about what interests them. Often, as a coach, you are looking to unlock underlying attitudes or perceptions that are “driving” the person’s behavior or performance. Exploring is often indirect and not necessarily something that you highlight. It is a way to gain insights about the person so that you can improve the effectiveness of your coaching and, hopefully, allow the person to gain insights of his or her own. Sometimes, directly questioning a person regarding emotions or motivations, for example, can disrupt the coaching process by creating a subtly uncertain or threatening environment for the person being coached. The person may not understand their underlying emotions or motivations or they may feel you are going to too “personal” a level. By being indirect and not going straight to the point, you receive the insights and retain a safe space for the coaching (the subject of a future post-stay tuned).

Managing people is about so much more than surface appearances or actions. Using the skill of exploring within your coaching relationships allows you to go below the surface and to find root causes of behaviors, thus leading to a deeper understanding of the person and greater opportunities for change.

 

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Manager Coaching Skills: Accountability

Accountability is essential to effective coaching. Not everyone wants to hear this word; its use can create fear in some and potentially undo the safe space needed for coaching. How do you bring accountability into the coaching relationship in a constructive and positive way?

When I begin a coaching relationship, I bring accountability up early, as we set up our coaching. I do not impose it, but rather, ask a question: How do we hold you accountable in this coaching relationship? This allows the person being coached to suggest a way they can ensure commitment and results. In my experience, seldom does anyone challenge or resist introducing accountability into the coaching relationship. I think this is due to their involvement in determining how we deal with accountability. If someone does challenge accountability, I ask how they feel about entering the coaching relationship. If it is a voluntary relationship, I let their answer inform me regarding whether they are ready for coaching. If it is not a voluntary relationship, I work with them to ensure there is accountability, doing my best to keep an open and safe space for our coaching.

Accountability does not have to be rigid. At the end of each coaching meeting I ask for an “intent” from the person being coached that specifies what they will do by our next meeting. I check in at the start of our next meeting on their intent and what they have done. Sometimes, much can be learned when a commitment is not carried through on. I explore with the person being coached why it was not done and that exploration often leads to key insights. The thread of accountability has to be maintained however, to ensure results. Accountability matters, as you well know as a manager.

Bring accountability into the coaching relationship at an early point. Allow the person you are coaching to participate in establishing it and keep accountability alive throughout the coaching relationship.

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Manager Coaching Skills: Asking Powerful Questions

Wisdom comes from within. A key coaching skill honors leading someone to learning, rather than telling them what you think they need to know – by asking powerful questions. The skill lies in your ability to evoke learning by asking a question that focuses their thinking on how they can move forward in a situation, In my coaching training, it was consistently reinforced that good coaching was not about the coach’s knowing what was best for someone, but rather understanding the person well enough to formulate questions that will lead them to their own insights and move them forward. Here are some examples of powerful questions:

• What is your desired result in this situation? (Create focus on results)

• What do you want? (Identify what’s important to them)

• What values are important here? (Staying true to who they are)

• Who has the power to affect the outcome? (Understanding the players)

• What are you willing to do differently? (Getting away from worn patterns)

• What or who is stopping you? (Identifying obstacles)

• What is most important to you in this situation? (Identifying priorities)

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Manager Coaching Skills: Clearing

Efficiency and productivity are as important in coaching as they are in other areas of your work. How do you maintain an environment where members of your team feel free to communicate, but efficiency and productivity are also honored?

Clearing is a process by which you create a space for the person being coached to release intense emotions or lines of thought that can inhibit their moving forward. The principle here is that if strong emotions are pushed down, they will interfere with the success of the coaching. Clearing involves allowing the person being coached to release emotions or “get things off their chest” for a specified period of time, with the agreement that once done, the coaching will proceed. In my experience, clearing works very well. You are acknowledging that emotions are present and that they need to be expressed. Usually, I give the process five to ten minutes. In rare cases, someone wants to go on. Then, I suggest that they identify a specific way they can release the emotions and commit to doing so, after the coaching is completed. If they cannot move into the coaching, we reschedule for another time.

Creating space for clearing is a coaching skill that acknowledges both that emotions are present and that you have a desire to move forward towards your goals.

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