The One Thing All Successful Leaders Do
Successful leaders put their people first and invest in their training and development through the coaching process.
Investing in people is an attitude and one that many new to management and leadership roles fail to understand. It’s not good enough to say, you are a manager now – go manage! You are a supervisor now go supervise! You are an operator now go do you job! Yet this is the very attitude that leads to communication breakdowns and under-performance in the workplace.
Investing in your people
One of the biggest downfalls of new leaders is not understanding the importance of coaching and mentoring their employees. When an employee learns new skills in a training environment, seminars, and conferences, they might only retain 20% of what they learned. Those skills must be immediately transferred to the workplace, where the employee can put into practice what they learned.
Most learning happens on-the-job, and coaching is one way to develop skills and abilities in a work environment.
The benefits of coaching
Coaching builds respect between managers and employees and focuses on changing performance based behavior not on personality. It promotes continuous learning and develops specific skills needed for their work environment. Coaching also follows a clear process to ensure changes are implemented. It enables individuals to become self-reliant and take on greater levels of responsibility.
A leader who invests time in coaching will build more effective teams. They are also more likely to develop a successor, who can move up and take on more responsibility, leaving them free to work more strategically on the business.
Successful leaders are effective coaches
Coaching is a process that supports employees in developing their skills and abilities. Coaching is based on a partnership between two people, where the coach helps the employee discover answers for themselves. A manager can be a coach, or a coach can be a qualified person outside the business.
If you are looking to coach individuals in your team, you do not need formal training as a coach; however, you need to stay within the scope of your skill sets and maintain a structured approach to be effective.
Unless employees have the right attitude toward coaching and they’re willing to be part of the solution, the coaching arrangement will not succeed. As with any relationship, trust and respect are paramount to successful outcomes.
Your role as a coach is to support them while the employee acquires new skills and learns new behaviors. This is the final stage of the GROW coaching framework, where the employee takes ownership for their new levels of competency.
Becoming a coach is also a core competency for successful leaders.
When you start coaching an employee, you are using a directing leadership style, which is more about “telling” the employee what to do. You provide information along with other inputs such as referrals and demonstrations, plus giving feedback. The employee depends heavily on you as a coach, while they acquire new skills and knowledge.
As they move through the coaching process, the employee gets to a point where they are no longer dependent on you as a coach. They can take full responsibility for their performance, bringing them to a point where you can now delegate tasks and projects to them, as they are fully accountable for their actions. It doesn’t mean they don’t need you as a coach anymore; they will continue to learn through constant reflection and experience, rather than through a formal coaching arrangement.
The coaching process
There are several ways of defining the coaching process. The “GROW” coaching framework is a process for coaching widely used in the late 1980’s and 1990’s and is still relevant today, even though it’s gone through several proliferations.
The stages of GROW stand for:
- Current Reality
- Obstacles and Options
- Willingness and Way forward
The following table is one version of the GROW model.
|Goal||What skills and abilities does the employee need to have to improve performance? These will be their goals.|
|Reality||The reality is where the employee is currently at? What issues and challenges do they need to overcome to reach their goals?|
|Obstacles||What are the obstacles preventing the employee from reaching their goals?|
|Options||What options are available that will help progress them towards achieving their goals?|
|Willingness||Are they willing to take the next steps? Do they have the right attitude and fortitude?|
|Way Forward||To find the way forward, what action steps need to put in place?|
The Goal stage of GROW is where you and your employee look at the goals you want to achieve as a result of the coaching relationship. Goals need to be SMARTER. Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Relevant, Time-bound, Ethical and Rewarding.
Together, you look at the employee’s current reality. It’s hard to reach a goal when you don’t know where to start. A good starting point is to ask them what is happening now. You can then determine the effect or result of their current performance levels. Be sure to examine if the goals you have collectively set conflict with any other goals or objectives.
Obstacles and options
Then, explore the options available. Guide them through his stage, rather than direct them. This will allow the employee to analyze and think for themselves, without you telling them what they should do. You can achieve this through well thought out questions such as:
- What are you doing?
- How are doing it?
- What obstacles are in the way?
- How would you overcome these obstacles?
- Have you explored what options you have?
- What else could you do?
- What other options do you have?
- What are the current constraints?
- If those constraints were removed, how would that change things?
- How will you evaluate each option?
- Have you considered the pros and cons of each option?
Establish the “Will” and Way forward
Just because you have collectively looked at the employee’s reality, set goals and explored the possible obstacles and options, this doesn’t mean the employee wants to enter a coaching relationship. Committing the employee to specific actions to move towards achieving their goals will help establish the motivation and create the will to move forward. At this stage, you need to find out more about their motivation by asking a few questions.
- What do you want to achieve through the coaching process?
- Why do you want to achieve this?
- Why is this important to you?
- If you didn’t achieve what you set out to do, what would you do next?
- What would stop you from moving forward?
- How would you overcome this obstacle?
- How will you keep yourself motivated?
- How often do you want to meet?
- How often do you want to review progress, daily, weekly, monthly?
Finally, you would draw up a coaching timetable and include regular reviews. During the review process, you may need to make adjustments.
To keep you on track, as a coach, you would then follow the GROW coaching framework.
The GROW coaching framework
The GROW coaching framework stands for:
|W||Work with the individual|
Conduct a gap analysis
Before you can coach an employee, you need to understand how they are performing. The three things you should look at: their skills, knowledge, and behavior.
Skills and competencies
This is the diagnostic stage of coaching and the first stage of the GROW coaching framework. Analyze what skills and competencies they have and how these match the job they are doing. Also look at whether they have the potential to grow into a future role or take on more responsibility. If so, analyze what skills and knowledge they need to perform at a higher level. From this analysis, you can gauge where the gaps are. Besides knowing where the gaps are, look at what specific skills they need.
Analyze their knowledge base to identify the gaps there. For instance, they may have practical skills but their knowledge of a specific industry or internal processes and procedures may be lacking.
Analyze their behavior. The employee may be very skilled from a technical perspective, but their communication style is lacking. They may communicate one-on-one but lack confidence in a group. They may need to learn how to be more assertive.
Once you have complied all this information, you can then identify coaching opportunities within your expertise and align these to your business goals. You would then focus on prioritizing the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that will lead to increased performance levels. Start with skills and competencies, as this is where you will make an immediate impact on performance.
It’s not enough to just identify priorities; it is also important that you both set SMARTER goals for coaching and agree on the performance standards required.
Conducting a review
The next stage of the GROW coaching framework is to review the employee’s current approach to a task, process situation, or incident to give constructive feedback.
Giving feedback must be done as soon as you have observed and diagnosed the performance issue. The type and degree of feedback will depend on what stage the employee is at. For instance, if the employee is learning a skill for the first time, you will give only positive feedback on small critical areas to encourage them to the next level. If they are far more confident and competent, you would offer more in-depth feedback.
Feedback should always be stated in the positive sense. For instance, rather than saying, “don’t do it like that” phrase it in the positive by saying, “try doing it this way”, which is far more constructive.
Constructive feedback is not the only way to change performance, particularly if the employee is a visual or kinesthetic learner. Demonstrating “best practice” provides a powerful model from which the employee can emulate what you are doing and put this into practice. As a coach, you might provide more in-depth understanding and guidance to other sources of information for the employee to research or follow up on that improves their knowledge base.
A good coach will look to identify both formal and informal coaching opportunities, particularly in down times, like travelling in a car or over a lunch. Formal meetings can be very time consuming for both of you.
The next step in the GROW coaching framework is to offer suggestions. This step should happen soon after steps one and two, not only to keep the momentum, but to ensure the employee stays motivated to improve.
This is where you both get to explore the possible routes to improved performance and reaching the performance goals identified in the earlier stages of GROW. To ensure buy-in from the employee, let them contribute to the action plan.
As with learning anything new, the employee can have a “crisis of confidence”, where they might believe the expected performance standard is too difficult or unattainable. If this happens, then as a coach, it is important to reinforce the great progress they have made to date. Empathetic listening to their concerns might also uncover an unexpected blockage that neither of you knew was there. It is also important to remember, if you followed the process, you would have both agreed on what the performance standards were enabling you to keep them accountable.
It can be very tempting when coaching an employee to take back ownership and complete the task yourself. Yes, it might be quicker, but this action will not only diminish the confidence of the employee and risk marginalizing them, but you cannot grow your business without delegation. In the long-term, your employees will become dependent on you, they won’t take ownership, and you will continue to have to work in your business not on your business.
In the second stage of the GROW coaching framework (review), you gave constructive feedback to the employee. To teach them a greater level of independence, rather than dependence, allow them to make their own assessment on how they are doing. This helps them become more aware of how well they are performing against agreed standards. This self-reflection allows them to make adjustments without referring to you. As a coach, these types of questions will aid this self-assessment process.
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What did you learn?
- What would you change in the future?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
- Where do you see opportunity for growth?
Ensure the employee you are coaching has plenty of opportunities to practice. Reinforce the positive aspects of their performance and provide consistent feedback.
On a Final Note
Learn how the Strategez for Success Coaching Model helps you master a life of Success. With the help of a life coach, or business coach, you will easily fast track your way to a successful life with no barriers.
Learning to lead, learning to run a business is no easy task. It takes time and education to transform yourself into the leader you want to be. It all starts with learning how to hire and manage people. It is your communication and people skills that separate the wheat from the chaff.
To find out how you stack up as a leader. You never know what others see that you don’t see yourself. This kind of feedback is not always negative, perhaps you have great attributes and talents you weren’t even aware of.
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