A lot of us, especially those from a technical or professional background, prefer leadership skills to be presented as a process with a distinct set of steps from beginning to end. We pride ourselves in being good managers of time and work hard towards sticking to a schedule. We react to unplanned work as disruptive and a threat to our effectiveness. As a result, we may miss great opportunities to develop people because they are not part of our “schedule.” To be a highly manager you must employ leadership coaching tactics: recognize coachable moments that occur outside of planned coaching sessions and take action.
Coachable moments often present themselves as you go about your day-to-day activities. We all know one of the most important things great leaders do is walk around the work place and make contact with their staff. While you are doing this, be in the present and look for coachable moments- both positive and negative. Be observant of an employee performing a task or having an interaction that suggests a coachable moment is at hand. Coaching in these circumstances can reinforce a positive behavior or prevent further damage from undesirable behaviors. When a person’s behavior is clearly destructive, the coach must intervene immediately, but do so with skill and empathy. Unfortunately if emotions are running very high the person’s receptivity to coaching maybe limited. Maintaining the person’s self-esteem is essential in these circumstances.
Constructive questioning can prevent the discussion from getting out of hand. Helping people reflect on what has happened, what hasn’t worked, and why they want to improve are all effective questions that create introspection and cool emotions. Remember one of the best questions is “What did you learn?”
Other coachable moments occur when it’s clear a person is ready to learn something new, is open to suggestions and is motivated to act upon them. Indications of these moments range from outright requests for assistance to, at times, rather vague appeals for help. Phrases like “I am struggling with…” or “I’m not sure” are telltale signs that a person is receptive to coaching.
Our challenge as leaders coaching in the moment is to stick to the proven coaching methods rather than let the time pressure cause us to revert to giving advice. You will no doubt be asked to provide advice and your own insights, but strive to avoid doing so. Remember the key coaching principle; giving outright advice may help the person solve the immediate problem but most likely the person will not adapt the methodology as part of their managerial repertoire.
Forgive me for sounding very theoretical and using “Neuroscience of Leadership” lingo, but we as coaches seek to have our participants and employees “create a new neural pathway to change their default (autopilot) behavior.”
The final type of coachable moments occurs when people are undergoing a transition to a new job, new position or new company. Two factors create an ideal coachable situation: the strong desire to succeed and the high receptivity people have to coaching while undergoing major job transitions. They recognize they have a need for help and often don’t know how to solve issues themselves. Being new on the job, they are highly motivated and will likely do whatever it takes to succeed.
To summarize key points for Coachable Moments:
- For maximum coaching success you need to find coachable moments and coach!
- Make sure you are walking around seeing your people on an informal and frequent basis. If necessary schedule your “walking around” time.
- Be aware and in the present – watch what is going and on a being said both in meetings and as you walk around.
- You will be asked to provide advice and your own insights, but avoid doing so until you have exhausted the opportunity to solve the issue through constructive questioning techniques.
- Constructive questioning prevents the discussion from getting out of hand. Use empathy and help your people reflect on what has happened, what hasn’t worked, and why they want to improve. Develop a tool box of effective questionsthat create introspection and cool emotions.
- Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking and reflection. Consistent effort, introspection and developing new habits are the keys to success.