Editor’s Note: Grant Stanley is a seasoned Business Coach and a Sales & Marketing Expert with a 20+ year outstanding Sales and Marketing record. He is also an author on Flevy, where he has published materials from Business Fundamentals to Management and Leadership Excellence. Take a look at all of Grant’s Flevy best practice documents here.
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Any time we try to teach and cannot get employees to catch on, it is frustrating.
We pride ourselves on being good coaches. So, when we cannot seem to get employees on the same page, it saps even the most patient manager.
But before pinning the blame on the employee, consider that the problem could be coming from you.
A crucial part of coaching is to play to the person’s strengths.
It is useless to coach a 25 stone bricklayer to be a fleet-footed steel erector. It helps to think of your employees the same way.
Coach employees to their strongest abilities and the lessons will pay off
And keep yourself out of it.
Coaching is not the time to wax poetic about how you started at the bottom and hit heights no one expected. How well YOU do the job has little to do with how your employee can or will perform.
Here are 5 guides to hone your skills, so your coaching invests in employees performing their best and continuing to improve.
1. Let the Employee Define the Problem
Avoid asking your employee a question then immediately launching into an explanation or list of problems.
This inhibits the most critical part of a teaching moment: We do not let the employee give a full answer.
For example, you see an employee struggle with a task and ask, “Is there something about the process you don’t understand?”
But rather than wait until the employee answers, you keep going: “Because it is a little tricky if you don’t do it very often, and it has to be done in a very a specific way – here let me show you.”
Leave it at one question, then let the employee tell you what is wrong.
This not only makes coaching more interactive; it also spares the person from having to listen to an explanation they do not need.
Plus, offering your own fix does not teach the employee anything, other than you know what you are doing, and they do not.
2. Be Careful about How You Point out Errors
Never assume the employee knows he or she is doing something wrong. It could be something the employee does not realise or is not aware of.
So, avoid interrupting the employee while they are in the process of doing something wrong unless it is an absolute emergency. This could come across as though you are spying, and it’s demeaning.
For example: “Um, OK that’s wrong. You’re not supposed to start cataloguing stat sheets before they get final review.”
If it is something that can be easily fixed, bring it to the employee’s attention as soon as possible – but resist pouncing on the mistake out of the blue.
Otherwise, the employee might wonder, “Do they peer over my shoulder looking for me to make a mistake all the time?!”
3. Come up for Air
If you are explaining something – especially if you feel yourself running-on – stop and ask, “Do you have any comments or questions?” or something similar.
Do not just talk at your employee.
Trying to drill too much information at once can overwhelm them, which is counterproductive. Even a small pause helps keep the person from becoming confused or disinterested – or both.
4. Use Teaching Stories – But Make Them Brief
Teaching stories can help an employee comprehend something, but not if they go on for 30 minutes.
Stick to short examples limited to a few minutes. Make sure your anecdote relates directly to what you are trying to teach the employee.
Try to intersperse teaching examples with questions, such as, “Can you relate to that?”, or “Have you had that kind of an experience?”
This helps the other person stay engaged, and it helps them connect the dots between your story and their situation.
5. Do Not Wallow in Your Own Brilliance
As with keeping teaching stories brief, also remember to keep them relevant.
Before diving into a coaching story, be clear about why you are doing it.
Ask yourself, “Am I telling this for MY sake or for theirs?”
Good managers do tell stories from their own past in an attempt to relate to employees on their level. It is effective if you are using a past example of a time you slipped up to get your employee to understand what not to do.
Saying “I did ____ and realised it was the wrong move because ____” provides the employee with a real-life illustration of what he or she should do (or avoid doing).
But too many managers get caught up in the moment, relaying information that’s irrelevant to the employee or the task at hand.
Stick to lessons that truly help the employee master a new task rather than tangents that waste their time.
Focusing solely on their improvement rather than your own ego makes you a better coach – and brings employees along better, as well.