Growing up participating in athletics helped me in many ways, but one of the most important aspects I came to value was coaching. Upon reflection, the people who poured into my life the most were my coaches. Being coached helped me understand that I could make the biggest impact not by doing more than anyone else but by empowering others to do more and motivating them to achieve their best. As I got older and entered the economic marketplace, I learned this meant letting go of certain responsibilities and recognizing the limits of my talent and expertise. Everyone was better at some particular thing that I would ever be! I didn’t need to have all the answers; I just needed to get better at asking the right questions. I connected the dots that effective leadership was going to contain a lot of employee coaching.
All effective leaders must develop their coaching abilities. It is now a necessity for effective managers to coach to be a leading force in successful organizations. For many people, the stereotype of an athletic coach is one who gives the impassioned speech about taking no prisoners, leaving it all out on the field and finishing up with “winning one for the gipper!” Coaching is not holding a one-day or weekend seminar for magic transformation, although many wish this were true. Coaching is not a get-skills-quick proposition. Coaching is not just about getting results; it’s about getting results for, through and by others. You can’t do a great job coaching by just believing in yourself, you must believe steadfastly in the potential development of those you manage.
One of the most essential things you must learn to be effective in coaching employees is to stay out of the fixed mindset. If you find yourself thinking “this person will never improve” or “this person just doesn’t have what it takes”, this mindset will severely limit your ability to make a difference as a leader and coach for this person. At this point, you are better off making some sort of change with this employee, because we consistently go down roads that are first established in our mindset and thinking. If you don’t believe in the person, your words and actions will follow that line of thinking and improvement for your employee will be severely limited. What I have found is that you may occasionally find someone who truly can’t achieve better development, but the real barrier is often the belief that the person can’t improve rather than the reality of his or her potential.
This often happens when you as the leader are coaching for future delegation activity. We fall into this trap when we acquire a lot of skill, experience, and knowledge in your area of expertise. This causes us to believe things will be simpler, faster and better if we do things ourselves rather than coaching for improved performance with our reports with the intention of transferring those duties to them wholly at some fixed point in the future. Doing things yourself may be a short-term solution but it often leads to long-term problems. If you keep doing everything yourself and providing all the answers, then people will keep lining up at your door with things for you to do and looking for answers only you can provide. This path severely limits multiplication and leverage of a vital resource to grow your organization right under your own nose.
Shifting yourself to a growth mindset takes work and like most things you are not accustomed to doing, might be somewhat painful at first. The fact is, if you invest some of your time and effort into coaching and developing your employees, the harvest you reap later on will be wonderful and bountiful. They will start solving more of their own day-to-day issues and problems and you will be free for higher level thinking such as competitive strategic issues and developing even more people to increase your leverage on driving effective results. Becoming a better teacher and coach for your employees means focusing on three key items:
- Explanation. Slow down to thoroughly explain in detail what you know and why the knowledge you are transferring to them is important. You will need to downshift your own speed of thinking and doing to make sure you are being clear and effective.
- Demonstration. Taking the time to walk through the activity or task will show them exactly how you would like to see the key objective accomplished.
- Practice. Time to turn the objective over to them to do. As much as you would like to, you will need to discipline yourself not to grab the wheel or jump in. while they are learning to drive. Mistakes are how they learn.
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