Engage Your Employees Through Coaching
Sue Adams, owner of The Whistler Grocery Store, has identified a number of circumstances in which she has found coaching to be invaluable, including:
- To facilitate quicker skill acquisition, often beyond basic training and orientation
- To enhance the overall employee experience in a seasonal work environment
- To encourage retention
- To build a great team committed to excellence, particularly in the area of customer service
“Many of our employees seek a job with us on a seasonal basis, others are traveling around the world and still others have taken a ‘time out’ from university or have lost their way on the career path. The latter group often lacks confidence in their aptitudes or performance,” explains Sue, who feels that coaching her employees has had an overwhelmingly positive outcome.
Coaching is not about providing advice, rather it is an opportunity for a manager to act as a sounding board for a team member, encouraging them to raise concerns and reach solutions to challenges on their own. The coach’s role is to help guide the discussion through active listening.
“Through coaching we are able to retain a high percentage of this group. And after a relatively short period of time they are able to take on positions of responsibility and build sound job skills, which in turn builds confidence, purpose and job satisfaction,” says Sue.
“Often fear and lack of confidence hold people back,” explains Bernie Lalor-Morton, principal of Focus Forward Coaching and Consulting, based in Whistler. “As a coach, your job is to challenge the coachee to break through that fear by asking them to examine their belief systems. Good coaches spend a lot of time asking questions,” says Bernie.
Bernie goes on to explain that coaching is a process that helps individuals come to their own decisions, within the parameters of their job descriptions. “Through coaching, employees are able to forge their own path, within the scope of their responsibilities, of course. The role of the coach is to encourage, support and champion,” explains Bernie.
Bernie suggests that managers and supervisors who are taking on a coaching role should try to eliminate their own expectations from the equation and remain open to whatever path their staff person wishes to choose, even if it is different from their own.
“Coaches need to remember that their staff members are creative, resourceful and whole. Coaching isn’t about trying to ‘fix’ someone; it’s about helping them discover an inner strength they’ve always had,” says Bernie.
In fact, Sue credits coaching as a big part of the reason The Grocery Store has managed to achieve a consistent, core group of employees who love their work.
“Because we are fortunate enough to retain this core group, they are able to coach the new-comers the following season, and the cycle continues, allowing us to maintain our position as employer of choice,” says Sue.
Coaches should begin by setting up one-on-one meetings with their staff to practice actively listening to their concerns, challenges and successes. There is no need to plan or over-rehearse coaching sessions, and it is always important to remain positive to keep the coachee motivated. Ask open ended questions and don’t make the employee feel that they must defend their behaviour.
Here are some important things to remember when coaching:
- Try to ask questions, rather than give advice
- Use word pictures (analogies and metaphors) – people will remember these
- Avoid negatives: Say “Maybe you could…” as opposed to “You shouldn’t…”
- Don’t coach when you are upset, nor when the coachee is upset
- Practise generous listening: if someone has a strong passion that is often displayed through frustration, try to recognize their passion as opposed to their frustration
In order to coach effectively, the coach should actively involve the coachee. For example, after a particular activity, a manager or supervisor might ask an employee how they felt they performed, then use their self-evaluation to establish goal setting for the coaching process.
KEY COACHING QUESTIONS
The following are a list of sample coaching questions, which can help to set a positive and proactive tone:
- What’s stopping you from achieving your goal of becoming a leader within your team?
- Think about someone you admire who has the knowledge, skills and ability to deal with an unsupportive or difficult team member. How would they deal with the situation? What advice would they give you?
- On a scale of 1-10, how compelled are you to reach your sales targets? What steps can you take to maximize your chances of reaching those targets?
- What are your greatest strengths? How can you maximize them within the scope of your position?
- Are there any areas in which you feel you need to improve? What could your manager or supervisor do more effectively to help you improve in those areas?
- What new skills would you like to acquire? How do you think you could go about gaining these new skills?