Over the last couple weeks I have shared with you two of the three roles of someone who has responsibility for others in an organization. They were manager and leader. The third role is that of being a coach.
How coaching works
Being a coach to your team provides a number of things the other roles do not. In this role you help your people find their own answers - this takes you out of the know it all or go to person role (scary?). When your people find their own answers they generate a higher level of trust in themselves - they grow. As they grow they develop a depth and a strength of character that allows them to reach further and out perform their own past best outcomes. Coaching people demonstrates support for that person at a deep and personal level. It has the potential to increase retention. Being responsible for people in an organization is a position of power you've likely earned. Having people engage with you, personally is about how you treat them. Learning to coach people helps develop your relationship with them and raises their level of engagement with you.
Before I became a coach, one of my favourite positions was one leading a team in a digital agency. We were responsible for the upkeep and hosting of client’s web sites once one of the large development groups completed their project. We grew and were able to handle larger and larger projects over time. One of the coaching moments that repeated itself regularly was when there was a “crisis” moment with a client. We’d pull together our rapid response team to communicate the situation and brainstorm possible solutions. Each member would naturally come up with part of the solution - my role was to give them the information and ask questions to ensure we covered all the issues I could see. I then turned them loose to create the solution. I didn’t own it all myself. They got to stretch their capabilities. They generated meaningful outcomes and solutions and I didn’t have to find them all myself - I learned to trust them and they learned to what they could do!
Coaching at work
What does it look like to coach people at work? First, your team needs to understand when you are in coach mode. What’s important about that is that being in coach mode can look very different from being in manager or leader mode - and probably should. You need to find your way to let your team know what coach mode looks and sounds like and what they can do with it. You want them to settle into it, take their space, try things out, explore and know that this is the place and time where they can stretch their capabilities and take risks.
How do you operate when in coach mode? How do you start a coaching conversation? If you coach your team, is it for performance (overcoming a challenge in the work) or for development - for your team member to learn, improve and grow? While coaching for performance has its place and it has value, coaching for development has more power, is longer lasting and can create long term positive change in that person.
You as Coach
For some of you starting to coach your team, your resilience will be tested as you learn. You may not see results immediately - stick with it. Coaching is about change in adult behaviour: yours, as you tell less and ask more; theirs as they learn, improve and grow. Both sets of change take time, vulnerability, practice and repetition.
My recommendation to everyone who is responsible for people in an organization is to use coaching as often as you can to develop your people. If you haven’t started to learn how yet, start now. The effort you put in will be worth it - for you and your team!