I have worked with a number of owners/founders of companies in the last 7 years. The roles that I have played range from an Executive Coach to a strategic HR Advisor. Also, as someone who helps them set up world class people practices and systems, which has a direct impact on their business results. Over the years, one aspect which keeps recurring, no matter what role out of the three mentioned above, that I am playing is “How do I as an owner/ founder help my direct reports perform at a higher level?”
Sometimes it is about their apprehension of trying to support someone who they perceive as highly qualified and experienced (and he should know how to do the job himself) and at other times, it is about their lack of knowledge of the principles of effective coaching.
It is important here to first clearly differentiate between Mentoring and Coaching. According to most experts, a mentor, is someone who offers his/her knowledge, expertise and advice, to those with less experience. By leveraging their experience and skills, mentors guide mentees in the right direction. Wwith long term development of the mentee as the outcome. The mentor is responsible for providing the support, and provide feedback to the mentee. Mentoring relationships are normally more long-term.
Coaching on the other hand is a short term engagement with a clear goal of improving the performance of the client in a short time frame with clear performance parameters. The coach normally progresses the client along a co- created path through asking thought provoking questions and reflection on the part of the client. Coaching is a development process whereby, an individual meets/interacts on a regular basis to clarify goals, deal with potential stumbling blocks, and improve their performance.
As an owner/founder or a leader in an organization you may be playing both the role of mentor and coach based on the situation, however, in this article we will be discussing only the aspect of coaching.
Certain questions which come up to your mind of could be:
- When should you coach someone?
- How does one coach a team member or what should be the process of coaching?
- What are the benefits of coaching?
A coaching conversation is a formal and structured event with a very clear aim or a goal. In most cases, the aim of the coaching conversation is the improvement in the performance of the person being coached in a specific aspect. There is no limit to how long the coaching session should be although most experts believe that a 60 to 90 minutes duration of a focused session is most effective. In a work environment, when you as a leader are coaching a team member, the coaching conversation on a specific issue could take as less as 30 minutes.
In this article, I would like to focus on how an owner/founder/leader in an organization can use coaching to improve the performance of his/her team member. So let us move to the first question that I posed earlier i.e. When should you coach a team member?
Ideally a coaching conversation should take place in the following situations:
- Developing high potentials in the organization.
- Helping a team member develop long-term goals and to help him/her in achieving the same.
- When a challenging task / project is given to a team member and the team member is struggling with an issue/problem with a business goal or managing people.
- Improving performance. These could be in the following situations
- He/she misses timelines more than once.
- A good performer starts to make mistakes/errors or the performance starts dipping.
- The team member becomes angry/upset or starts having workplace conflicts with others in the team.
Let us now move to the second aspect, which is, how does one coach a team member? In an ideal situation, the coaching conversation should take place as soon as possible to the event which triggered the coaching conversation. This ensures that the event is fresh in the mind and remedial steps if required, are taken as soon as possible. The following process is recommended for making the coaching conversation more effective.
- State the issue you want to discuss first. It could be goal setting of key behaviour change for next one year, to find a solution for an issue that the team member is facing or performance related.
- Take time to listen and understand the team members perspective. Provide examples or ask for them to ensure that both of you clearly understand the issue and the outcome, that both of you are aiming to achieve.
- Ask open-ended questions to encourage the team members to give out their views, use active listening techniques to ensure that the team member feels that, you are interested in understanding his/her perspective.
- Once there is a shared understanding of the issue, shift the conversation to the next steps with a clear plan with timelines and monitoring framework.
- Set up a process by which the team member can get in touch with you, in case of any issues being faced by him/her.
- Appreciate and recognise the team member and let the team member know that you have confidence in him/her.
Coaching your team member has multiple benefits, a few of them are:
- Improved performance of the team member
- Higher team engagement and alignment with organization and owner/founder.
- The process makes the team feel empowered and encourages them to take responsibility and become more accountable.
- Openness to learning and self development.
- Team members become more self aware and involved.
As a owners/founder, you wear multiple hats and there are so many things which you have to do to keep your business growing. Coaching key team members seems to be another task which just adds to the things that you have to do in a day, however, taking time out for coaching could be the most important thing that you can do as the benefits are tremendous in terms of business outcomes. So take time out of you very busy schedule and start spending at least an hour every week to coach a team member. You would be surprised at the results after 6 months.
R Square Consulting