Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Every Organization Should Focus on Making Managers More Coach-Like


Guest post from Michael Bungay Stanier:

“Coaching” is one of those buzzwords that has been flying around human resources and leadership conversations for a few years now. By now we know how effective coaching can bridge the gap between HR and talent development. Trouble is, not everyone really knows what coaching means. It’s easy enough to see why that is — coaching comes in a few forms.

Executive coaches generally come into a workplace once or twice a month and spend an hour or so with their clients, supporting and encouraging them, helping them to focus and be more strategic. They tend to work with senior employees. There’s no doubt that having someone acting as your champion and a sounding board can be valuable, but it’s expensive and, as it turns out, it’s not the most effective way to introduce coaching to the average time-crunched manager.

Another avenue organizations might take involves training people within the organization to take on the role of executive coach.

The third type — and the most effective type, in my opinion — occurs when managers recognize that being more coach-like is a great way to lead and so they take matters into their own hands. And that’s what we’re all about at Box of Crayons — helping managers and leaders become more coach-like so that they can coach their employees in 10 minutes or less.

It’s easy enough to say “Okay, I’m going to coach my employees”; it’s another thing altogether to actually do it well. Everyone is busy enough as it is, and it’s hard to find time to learn a new skill, let alone act on it. Hence the need for practical, on-the-spot coaching.

Coaching is what separates average managers from highly effective ones — and leaders in HR and L&D know that. But getting managers to become more coach-like doesn’t happen without a little effort.

The biggest barrier managers and leaders have to coaching is lack of time. They’re overwhelmed and overcommitted. They think they don’t have time for coaching or they’re not sure how to get started. How do we help them get there?

Monique Valcour, in her Harvard Business Review article, You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach, really hits the nail on the head when she says, “If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.” And to do just that, she continues, you need to have coaching conversations.

An effective coaching conversation can take place in 10 minutes or less. You don’t even need to label it as coaching (and in fact, you shouldn’t). This type of conversation will improve your everyday interactions, so consider making it an almost-daily event. Think drip irrigation rather than flash floods.

The key to a good coaching conversation is asking questions. In my book The Coaching Habit, I list seven essential questions that serve as a sort of coaching script. To get started, you can pick just one that feels most useful to you. The Kickstart Question “What’s on your mind?” can help you get quickly to the heart of what matters most. The Focus Question “What’s the real challenge here for you?” digs a little deeper. The Best Coaching Question in the World is “And what else?” It works wonders because you’ll find that the first answer someone gives you is never the only answer, and rarely their best answer.

Asking questions is to coaching as corn is to a really good bourbon — it’s not everything, but it’s more than half.

Start strong and finish quickly. Keep it to 10 minutes or less, keep it simple and do it often. Make coaching a regular part of your day by transforming the interactions you have, rather than it adding more to your workload.

Coaching doesn’t need to be a big formal event. By making it an everyday conversation and developing coach-like tendencies, you’ll create teams that are happier and more effective, leading to results that help the organization as a whole. The term “coaching” doesn’t need to mean anything more than simply saying less and asking more, and in doing so, changing for the better the way you lead.  
About Michael Bungay Stanier: Author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner and Founder of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. It is best known for its coaching programs, which give busy managers practical tools to coach in 10 minutes or less.

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