BY AMY CASTRO
The job of leading employees has definitely changed over the years. In the past, it was an owner’s or manager’s job to tell employees what to do and then follow up to make sure the tasks were completed. However, today’s employees are looking for coaching in a collaborative environment where they are encouraged and given regular feedback on their performance. It might sound like extra work, but taking the time to coach your employees rather than just managing them will pay off for you and your business. Not only will your employees be more engaged, they’ll be more productive, more dedicated and they’ll serve your customers more effectively.
First, let’s define the difference between managing and coaching. Managers are directors. They tell employees what to do and then make sure those things get done. Their conversations with employees are one way, with the exception of occasionally asking, “Do you have any questions?” Coaches, on the other hand, encourage two-way communication. They ask more than they tell and truly listen to their employees. Coaches know that the best way for employees to learn is not to be told over and over again what to do, but to be asked what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and how the employee plans to accomplish the task.
Here are five simple things you can do to make the transition from being just a manager to being a great coach for your employees.
Every employee is motivated by something different, and it’s very likely that what motivates you isn’t what motivates your employees. Managers try to use the things that motivate themselves to motivate their employees. A manager might say, “If you keep coming in on time every day, you’ll have a chance at being our team lead.” However, if the manager hasn’t taken the time to get to know the employee, he or she has no idea if being the team lead is even a goal for that employee or whether the thought of a promotion is motivational. A good coach finds out what motivates each employee and then provides those motivators to get the most from each employee. If an employee was motivated by the opportunity for additional training or education, providing these opportunities would be more motivational and gain better performance than the promise of a promotion.
One of the things I always stress in my coaching workshops is to ask when you know you could tell. Many managers know exactly what’s gone wrong in a problem situation and what can be done to fix it. Therefore, when problems arise, they just tell their employees what they did wrong and what they need to do to avoid the problem in the future. However, coaches know that telling isn’t the best approach to developing employees. Coaches ask questions like, “What do you think you could do differently tomorrow to be here on time?” or “What do you think you could have said instead that would have avoided the customer getting more upset?” By asking questions, the coach learns whether the employee has any idea how to avoid or fix the problem. Additionally, asking questions encourages employees to be more proactive in thinking through solutions to their own problems rather than always relying on the boss’ advice. Finally, asking a question and allowing the employee to come up with a solution turns the conversation into an opportunity for the coach to praise the employee for his or her good thinking and to end the conversation on a positive note.
Give Positive Feedback
When it comes to praise, many managers are a bit stingy. These managers feel that employees should know when they’re doing a good job and shouldn’t have to be told. However, today’s employees want to know exactly what they’re doing right when they’re doing it. Therefore, good coaches give specific, positive feedback regularly. It’s not enough to say, “Great job today. Keep up the good work.” If you want good work to be repeated, you need to tell employees exactly what they’ve done well and why the good work matters to you. You might say, “Megan, I really appreciate how you handled the conversation with Mrs. Davis when she was upset about Buster’s food not shipping on time. You let her vent and took the time to explain the delay and what we’d do to compensate her. Your calm demeanor and sincerity really helped de-escalate the situation. This is the kind of approach to problems that keeps our customers coming back to us. Thank you for handling this so well.”
Address Problems Early
When problems occur, many managers let them drag on or occur several times before addressing them. A great coach addresses problems the first time they happen. They know it’s best to deal with an issue when it’s a small one rather than waiting for it to grow into a bigger problem. For example, let’s say Kelsey, who is normally on time, arrives 10 minutes late today. Many managers won’t say anything to Kelsey because it’s “just the first time.” However, a good coach knows that saying nothing means you don’t care, and that is not the message you want to send to your employees. Therefore, a coach might say, “Kelsey, I was worried because you’re 10 minutes late and you’re always on time. Is everything OK?” If something happened to Kelsey that morning, such as having an accident on the way to work, asking the question shows that her coach cares about her. If Kelsey hit the snooze button one too many times, she’ll know that her coach cares about lateness and she’ll be less likely to hit that snooze button again tomorrow.
Whether the communication is a problem-solving conversation or praise for a job well done, coaches know these conversations should be handled one on one. Too many managers praise publicly and only provide negative feedback in private. I know this because when I ask employees what they’d think if their boss came to them and said, “I need to see you in my office,” the first thing they always say is, “Uh, oh. I’m in trouble.” Another poor tactic of managers is to give feedback to the entire team rather than giving it to the employee or employees who need it, such as saying, “As a reminder, we all need to do a better job of…” A good coach realizes this is not only an ineffective way to address performance with those who need the feedback, but it also punishes those employees who are doing things right. Coaches know that performance issues, both good and bad, should be addressed one on one with each employee. They know it’s important to take the time to sit down with each employee, look them in the eye and let them know how they’re doing.
Author bio: Amy P. Castro, MA, is a business, leadership and communication expert, author and speaker who helps organizations develop leaders and build amazing teams one person at a time. She works with pet industry professionals who want to grow their loyal customer base by building a “Best in Show” team that can deliver a 5-Star Customer Experience. Amy is also the president of Starlight Outreach and Rescue, a nonprofit rescue in the Houston, Texas, area, and she has personally fostered more than 1,000 shelter pets.