The best way to coach employees
<![CDATA[In the HBR Guide to Coaching Employees, executive coach, Ed Batista, says that coaching is a style of management characterized by asking questions. He believes that by asking the right coaching questions you can move from a one-way interrogation to a dynamic learning session. I think that this guide seriously confuses the type of coaching that an executive coach does with the real world of corporate coaching of personnel. While asking the right questions is important, there is a bigger problem in regards to employee coaching. We have observed that in many of the organizations that we’ve worked with there is much confusion between the manager’s role as a coach role and their role as an authoritative supervisor. Managers with direct supervisory responsibility are typically supposed to guide technical execution of work along with personal development. When acting as the supervisor, managers typically operate with a “telling” behavior in which authority is being exerted. When acting as a coach, managers typically try to use more of a “questioning behavior,” where empowerment is meant to be given. However, what ends up happening is that the exercise of authority by management has so much more impact on the perceived relationship that the recipient of the “coaching” quickly comes to treat all interactions as authoritarian and not as the intended coaching experience. Over time, the employee will come to expect to be told things and often distrust managers who tell and occasionally question. In turn, with the employee responding less, managers eventually do less questioning and telling causing the employee to withdraw even more. It is a vicious cycle. Fortunately, there are ways to correct this problem. The first is to work together to define a collective purpose. Don’t do this by telling everyone the purpose, but through a genuine, collective effort. Next, consciously separate the content direction from the process coaching, by asking people how they can contribute to achieving the collective purpose. Finally, the hard part, never answer your employees questions. Always make them come to the answer on their own. This will get people thinking and learning. As soon as a manager answers a question he or she reverts back to being the authority figure and the vicious cycle returns. The thing with coaching is it’s not about what questions to ask, it’s how you do it. When it comes to coaching, the goal is to create a culture where everyone makes a contribution on their own without being told. This will lead to more productive, self-sufficient performers and your organization will benefit immensely. ]]>
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