In a previous life when I was designing HR people processes, a key component of most Performance Development Processes (PD) was to have regular coaching conversations throughout the operational year. Leaders and their staff agreed that this leadership activity was essential. So, no conflict there! When I created a new PD process, my practice was to check in with users in the organisation what was working and what was problematic as the process was rolled out. One thing I noticed was that the same criticisms concerning the coaching element of the process irrespective of the sector or size of the organisation are expressed. Typically, throughout any implementation period, typical issues included:
- Coaching sessions being cancelled or re-scheduled, resulting in the creation of a work climate where trust is eroded (not keeping promises)
- Lost opportunities to talk about work, what’s working/not working, challenges to be overcome, what’s gone well and the absence of feedback (positive and formative).
- Coaching sessions being rushed and perceived as a tick box exercise – no meaningful conversations taking place and a sense that it felt more like a progress chasing meeting.
- Not feeling safe to have open, honest conversations.
- Coaching sessions usually starting with “Do you have a minute?”
- A feeling of going through the motions – nothing changes.
What can you do?
It’s useful to remember that not every leader creates this type of experience, but what can be done to help those leaders see the benefits of having meaningful conversations with their staff? Listed below are five simple things a leader can do to make sure that coaching in the organisation makes a difference.
- Keep your promises and don’t cancel/re-schedule coaching sessions as this is quality time for your team members to talk about what is important to them as much as it is an opportunity for you to provide feedback, praise and support.
- Find out from your staff member, what it is that’s important to them and ensure you address this in the coaching session.
- Be clear before you start the coaching conversation, about what it is that you need to say. Don’t fudge difficult feedback – staff need to know what it is they are “not doing” concerning quality or standards – they won’t be able to change if they don’t know. (do this with compassion for the other person).
- Notice the balance between your ability to operate between advocacy and inquiry? Being an expert yourself and telling someone what it is they have to do, is no guarantee that they will do it! Supporting someone to achieve their objectives requires more in-depth levels of inquiry and listening to what they are saying. Pick up on the unspoken, get to underlying thoughts, feelings and motivations and then explore these in the conversation.
- Notice what judgements you are holding about your staff member. What have you already made your mind up about concerning them? Try and suspend this thinking as it will stop you hearing what it is, they say.
Want to know more?
Come along to our event “Dynamic Conversations – Learning the Language of Leadership” in Glasgow, where you can learn to make every coaching conversation count.