Sometimes in the early years as a manager, you experience moments of frustration with your staff. Feeling like a broken record, having to repeat instructions over and over again.
“How many times do I have to tell them?!” If you’re a manager, you’ve either said this or at least thought it, at some point in your career.
With the help of great coaches and a lot of practice, I learned how to improve my team’s performance through coaching.
My journey began with these 5 lessons:
#1 Training is how we learn something new. Coaching is how we master it.
When I learned to play golf, I took golf lessons. While playing a round of golf, my husband (whether I asked for it or not) coached me. He helped me apply what I had learned from my golf instructor. Coaching is how we get better at our craft. Any time a new skill or process is being rolled out, both training and coaching are required to ensure full adoption.
#2 Coach behaviors, not results.
Suggesting that I make fewer shots is obvious advice but it’s not coaching. Improving how I hit the ball (behavior) was the only way to improve my score (result). My husband/coach was able to observe that I couldn’t hit a fairway wood to save my life. So, after we finished the front nine, we hit the practice range to work on just that shot. In other words, coach the behaviors that lead to the results, not on the results themselves.
#3 Deliver constructive feedback in-the-moment as much as possible.
Coaching is not waiting until after the round to tell me what I did wrong. I can’t apply the feedback until I play again and I’m certainly not going to remember a heap of advice from a week ago. Likewise in business, coaching should not be “saved up” for the end-of-the-year performance review. Managers should regularly schedule the time to observe and share real-time feedback. Giving feedback should be a business-as-usual management routine, not an “I gotcha” tool reserved for your worst performers.
#4 Don’t tell them. Coach them.
I have a confession to make. When my husband tries to “tell me what to do” on the golf course, I can sometimes, on occasion, get a little defensive. Experience tells me that I’m not the only one. Simply telling someone what they did wrong can trigger all kinds of unproductive responses…denial, embarrassment, anger. The point of coaching is to enable the coachee to learn and change how they behave in order to improve the outcome. Don’t let what should be a “learning moment” turn into an “I’ll show you moment.”
#5 A good coach helps people self-discover.
You may be thinking: if I can’t tell them what to do, then how will they know what to change? Good question. Let me tell you a short story about my experiences as a new golfer playing with my husband, a seasoned golfer. Yep, you know where this is going.
During a particular round of golf with my husband/coach, I hit a terrific drive but the ball rolled through the fairway, resting on the side of a steep hill. Experienced golfers know how to hit this next shot. But keep in mind, I was a rookie and burning mad about my misfortune. What should my husband/coach have said in that moment?
a.) “Which way do you think this ball will go because of the hill?”
b.) “Now, you need to aim to the right because it’s going to go to the left.”
I’m sure someone reading this is thinking neither answer is correct. He should have kept his opinions to himself. That’s a good answer too, but for a different article.
Option A is definitely the better choice. By asking me this simple question, I was forced to figure it out by myself. I had a much better chance of remembering this technique in the future because I discovered the answer. In a more complex business scenario, it may take a couple of cleverly worded questions to elicit the desired “ah, I get it now” response. Skillful use of thought-provoking, open-ended questions is a great way to help the coachee “coach themselves.”
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.