As is the case with most companies, one of the toughest issues, if not the most difficult, is getting optimal performance from employees and teams. When you have employees who aren’t living up to their potential, what do you do? How do you address the high potential employee or team who just can’t seem to get started? The person who knocks it out of the park, but leaves bodies in his wake? Do you take a mentoring approach, or is coaching more appropriate?
The clearest distinction I can make between coaching and mentoring is this: Mentors often show you how to do something, and Coaches work together with people to “git-r-done.“ The “git-r-done” part is usually a skill or behavior that needs some tuning. At the very core of the tuning, is the real ability to help someone achieve without directing. You can help them discover answers to their own questions rather than telling them what to do.
There are many areas where people want to improve or focus. Work relationships, utilizing strengths, career direction, success on their own terms, and drive or will to succeed are just a few. Let’s focus on Coaching someone who has had some performance challenges, and said she wants to “git-r-done.” Now, put on your Coaching hat.
The reason I often favor Coaching is that each day, you are in the trenches with your team. You are talking to them constantly. A really interesting statistic from a psychology journal said that “Managers often spend 60% to 90% of their time in face to face communication.” When you’re talking this much, you have to be asking questions. In Coaching, well thought-out, open-ended powerful questions help to shape focus and direction. Here’s a Coaching tip from a Coach – don’t ask “why” questions. “Why” questions put people on the defensive and make them retreat. “Why” questions make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong.
Here are 6 that will help you get there:
1. What steps are you taking to achieve your goals?
2. When are you going to do it?
3. How do these steps help you “git-r-done?”
4. What might get in your way?
5. How can you remove those obstacles?
6. What support do you need?
There are more questions you can ask or variations on the questions listed, but these will give you a good foundation. The ability to Coach makes you more valuable to your team and organization. We don’t always need people to tell us exactly what to do or how to do something, but most of us appreciate encouragement and support. Successful businesses are headed up by leaders that understand the importance of Coaching.
How does it make you feel when someone tells you exactly what to do? What about when someone asks you “why….?” What does your body feel like? The answer is that your shoulders start to tighten, your face becomes tense, and you feel as if something awful is about to happen. You are bracing yourself for something bad. On the flip side, when someone offers encouragement and helps coach you, your psyche is that much better. You feel stronger and have optimism. Practice the questions.