Updated: Dec 18, 2022
Coaching is essential in building meaningful relationships with your team members and guiding their growth. Finding the proper flow for these meetings takes time, and everyone has different needs. This post will look at a few essentials for productive coaching sessions.
1.) Learn about the people on your team so you can create a safe space in your coaching sessions: Everyone has varying levels of comfort with vulnerability. When you start building these relationships, you should get to know the person and how they like to receive feedback. Doing so gives you a chance to have an open dialogue where the person can let you know what works for them, and you can also talk a bit about what you both want to get out of these sessions. Also, setting some guiding principles, like grounding your sessions around continuous improvement and how to make things incrementally better, is an excellent way to set expectations for the person you're coaching.
2. ) Listen more than you speak: Listen first and give the person a chance to discuss their viewpoint before giving feedback. Often I will ask people to look at their numbers or a situation they dealt with and give me their take on it. What happened, and what would you do differently? These are two great questions to ask employees when working together.
Listening first will allows you to gauge awareness of blindspots where you could advise them to improve instead. When I do this, the feedback flows more naturally because you aren't making assumptions; you're validating your input based on their experience. I am also amazed by just how self-aware some people are. Sometimes people will be quick to recognize and say where they went wrong, leading to a great open dialogue where you can guide them. It's a valuable skill, and the people who work on your team will appreciate it. Work to make it so people feel comfortable bringing you their problems, seeking your input, and sharing their feedback and ideas by actively listening.
3.) Focus on understanding over judgment: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and that's ok. We are all human beings trying to learn and grow along the way. Fear doesn't empower people to do their best work. It stresses people out. Being compassionate and understanding where people are now, what's happening for them, and how you can work together toward continuous improvement is the key to seeing growth in people on your team.
4.) Set clear boundaries and guardrails for accountability: We want people to feel empowered and supported through their coaching. It's also equally important to set clear boundaries. So people know where the guardrails are in their role. Set expectations around rules and boundaries in your coaching relationship early on. The clearer you can be, the easier it will be overall.
If someone breaks a rule or boundary, you have to have an open dialogue, state what happened, find out what happened, and listen before giving feedback. Once you know their side, let them know what happened. If they broke a rule and it affected a customer or another team member. They must know the weight of that impact. Then give them some things you would like to see moving forward. I always frame these conversations in that we want the best for everyone on our team, and mistakes happen, but here are some things to keep in mind to avoid this in the future.
Remember to treat these sessions with care. It takes time to build trust with individuals. Still, it's a worthwhile effort because when people feel safe in their relationships with their manager and you can have a meaningful open dialogue about performance; it opens new doors for the growth of the individual. As a leader, you will also learn from it a lot as you go.