The Management Toolkit: Coaching
Fresh out of Uni with a graduate degree, most of you will set off on your next big journey in life; a career. The transition is not supposed to be easy, and most Graduates find there is a huge discrepancy between their university studies and applicability to the workplace. While theory-based study is a valuable tool for understanding management, it rarely teaches you the practical skills you need to be an effective manager.
In order to help, we have put together a toolkit series of important skills for good leadership and collegiality.
In modern organisations, management is less about control and more about guidance. A good leader doesn’t merely direct his employees; he helps them articulate a path of their own, and then makes sure they stay on it. Progressing on a path we find personally meaningful is one of the greatest motivations we can experience at work. Just think of how much stronger your own motivation is for working on assignments in subjects you know will be relevant for your future career, compared to subjects that are mandatory and otherwise less important to you.
By understanding what drives others, you can help them motivate themselves, as well as discover where they can excel. All you need is a tool that facilitates the process.
Coaching is acknowledged as the single most important skill that separates great managers from average ones. The practice is fundamentally about connecting with individuals, understanding what they care about, and ultimately helping them become who they want to be.
So how do you do it?
Coaching is primarily made up of four interconnected skills: Active listening, questioning, feedback and goal setting.
In a coaching conversation, what matters most is your intent to be present; your ability to focus on the dialogue at hand and let go of other matters. Your motivation for speaking shouldn’t come from your desire to share your thoughts. You have to centre your cognition on your team, and what they are expressing. An attentive listener is noticeable, and your attentiveness communicates that you desire a meaningful dialogue with the talker’s best interests at heart. This encourages a more trusting dialogue, which allows you to reveal desires or concerns that would otherwise go unmentioned.
The antithesis of listening is telling, which in turn offers little guidance other than direction, and often leaves team members stranded without the will to act. While listening you should try to map out the desires of your team, and asking questions will help you do this. It’s important you remember the purpose of the conversation; that you are to help guide your team member towards a desirable progression. Once you’ve figured out what he or she wants to achieve, you should use open-ended questions to guide them in figuring out what it takes to get them there. There is great motivational strength in personally figuring out what to do, and creating your own action plan, and your job as a coach is to guide them towards this realisation.
Most of us have a fairly packed schedule at work, so finding time for our personally desired progression is challenging. Your team members might be disheartened by lack of progression, or the inability to achieve all that they desire. Your job as a coach is to maintain their positive attitude towards their development, assist in figuring out what areas are most important and which parts of the action plan will realistically fit in with the daily schedule. Helping set accountable goals and maintaining a healthy conversation regarding their progression is a major part of the coach’s job, and hinges on your ability to connect the achieved development to the coachee’s job satisfaction and personal fulfilment.
Once a direction has been determined and a progression plan has been made, your job as a coach is to follow up on the team’s development. Bear in mind that your purpose is to encourage progress, and so your conversations should be positively charged and developmental rather than critical and evaluative. This is because the focus should be on what the team can strive to achieve, instead of what they have failed to achieve. Over time this will help create a developmental alliance where your team trusts your desire to help them reach their goals.
As a student you have the perfect arena for practicing your coaching abilities. If you make it your business to motivate your friends and co-students, all you need to do is figure out what drives them, and then nudge them a little. Given enough time and effort, you’ll find your ability to listen well, ask guiding questions, help set goals and give casual feedback will drastically improve.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our introduction to the world of coaching, and we wish you best of luck in improving your own abilities.
Stay tuned for further tools of the trade.