When you train a new employee or mentor a high-achieving team member, you are exercising your coaching skills. Good coaches, like good managers, develop people by providing them with the appropriate resources, training, and assignments. Effective coaches act as mentors to the people they coach, encouraging them to develop new skills and succeed in their careers.
Effective coaches make coaching look easy, but doing it well is not simple. Like all management competencies, though, a person can learn to be an effective coach. If you have no idea where to begin, here are some suggestions.
- If you haven’t ever worked with your own coach, start there. Hiring a professional coach for a few months will help you understand how good coaches work, and you can model your own coaching skills on what you experience. Coaches work with each person individually, assessing strengths and figuring out where problems lie. In addition, effective coaches base their helping techniques on what works best with each individual. You may find that what works well with you might also be helpful with one of your team members.
- After you have experienced coaching firsthand, you might want to join a network or organization of coaches to increase your skills. In these meetings, coaches often role-play dealing with typical work problems, and critique each other on their performances. Even though it may be hard for you to open yourself to being critiqued, role playing in a safe environment is usually easier than talking to an angry team member about improving their poor work skills.
- In conjunction with your coach or your own manager, choose a person on your team with whom you want to initiate coaching. Possibly this person is the weakest performer on your team, or is regularly late to work, or doesn’t understand the software your organization uses. Talk to the person and find out how he/she views the problem. Effective coaching starts with understanding the team member’s perspective on the problem and works forward to jointly find a resolution. As you coach the person over time, your coach or manager can help you hone your techniques to achieve success.
- Go the extra mile to share information with your team members about training and development opportunities within your organization. If this is not something you regularly do, you may be perceived to be a manager who withholds important information from your team. It’s true that team members who learn about development opportunities may end up getting better jobs, forcing you to take the time to train new team members. On the other hand, if this occurs, you will enjoy a wide network of professional associates who can prove invaluable over time. In addition, you will benefit by your reputation as being a generous, open-minded manager.
Some managers think they are too busy to take the time to provide coaching for their team members, so team members are forced to learn their jobs on their own and without help. That management attitude is short-sighted and will most likely lead to a poorly functioning team with low morale. Developing your coaching skills will probably result in a higher-functioning team with strong morale. You may even discover that you have more time to do your other work.