Ask a coach: how do I coach people in my team?

How can you get started?  You don’t need to clear chunks of time out of your calendar.  It’s more a question of having conversations with people, as the work happens – with a shift in your approach. Here are 5 fundamentals that all ‘manager-coaches’ need to know and do:

1. Do whatever it takes to ensure there is a trusting relationship between you and your team.  There’s no point launching into some coaching questions with a team member if they’re worried about your agenda.  If you are operating with integrity, treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, and people know where they stand with you, you’re in a good position to start coaching.

2. Identify opportunities to coach.  There are far more of them than you may think.  For example, there may be heaps of coaching opportunities when someone is new, or they are carrying out a task for the first time, or they’ve just returned from a training course.  See the previous posting on this topic for more opportunities.

3. Ask coaching questions more of the time – this is the essential shift in approach that manager coaches need to make. So next time you’re about to launch into a sermon on ‘the way I’ve always done this is….’ (been there, long time ago, but I’m cringing as I write!), ask questions instead.  Here are some examples:

‘What do you already know about this?’

‘What’s your big question about this?’

‘What resources do you have that will be useful?’

‘Who does this well?’

‘How can I support you?’

‘Where can you find examples of how it’s done?’

‘What different possibilities are there?’

‘How confident are you about taking this on?’

‘What are the steps you will take to make it happen?’

‘What do you need from me so you can do this?’

Get started by asking one or two of the questions, building up your repertoire as you go. 

4. Move from monologue to dialogue.  Allow time for the individual to think through their answers to your coaching questions, and express themselves.  Be sure to listen carefully to the responses you get: they may be very different to what you expect to hear.   

5. Give responsibility to your team members to do what they say they will.  That’s the end of the bargain for both of you: you coach, encourage, support and give people space to grow.  In return the individual will do what – through your coaching – they have identified as the task and take responsibility for it.  What if they don’t?  Well that’s a great opportunity for further coaching.

See my earlier post for tips to help you spot the best opportunities to coach – and when not to.

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