Floyd Business Partners

Think Big Do Bigger

Month: December 2016

How To Coach Your Team

Enabling team development through coaching

Supporting people performance and team development are as much a part of a team leader’s role as minding the business. In fact, in an ideal world, team leaders would spend at least 70% of their time on team coaching. In these days of reduced staff it is not always possible to delegate all task oriented activities, but the more the leader can be a coaching manager, encouraging people to think for themselves, plan ahead and create their own solutions, the more one will see the team working together, rising to the challenge and achieving extraordinary things. Conversely, the more a manager corrects the team and interferes with the team’s decisions (which is about directional management rather than team coaching), the less people will bother to think for themselves, and team development in terms of creativity and people performance will slow down.

Team development: creating possibility

To develop a team to its full potential, the coaching manager must create an environment where people are encouraged to nurture their own ideas, are supported in taking risks, and where mistakes are treated as a learning curve. It should also be a place where people can have some fun! Happily, creating a fun environment is the easiest part of the process, because if people are given the space to develop their own performance, and have the satisfaction of having taken risks, risen to challenges and learned from the outcomes (whether failure or success), then the fun part happens of its own accord.

Looking for rules and instructions on team development is perhaps starting out from the wrong place. A team can only develop itself. The coaching manager’s contribution is to create the space where that can happen and then get out of the way, leading from behind to coach the team members when they need it. This is the secret to successful team development.

The most common resistance to coaching that I hear in organisations is ‘I don’t have time to coach’. There is a misconception that every team activity will take longer because listening to people takes longer than telling them what to do. However, once the time and effort has been put in to learn manager-as-coach skills (which can take as little as a month) the team’s behaviour and relationship with the leader will start to change. If people know that when they approach their manager for guidance, they will be asked to suggest solutions themselves, they will very quickly form the habit of thinking things through before they approach the manager, presenting solutions not problems. The coaching manager will know how to create trust in the relationship, so that team members will not be afraid to call for input when it is required. The coaching manager’s time is then freed up to be spent on visioning, exploring new perspectives and driving the business forward, not to mention improved work-life balance. People performance will look after itself – there is no strain or effort involved in team coaching.

The manager as coach

Over the last decade of training leaders to become coaching managers, I have come to understand that the vast majority of managers aspire to motivate their teams, encourage them, reduce their stress levels and to bring out the very best in terms of people performance. In short, most managers want their teams to be happy as well as productive. In addition, the team leaders aspire to be liked and respected as coaching managers. Where a manager’s performance fails to meet these standards, the reason is usually due to a lack of skill rather than intention.

To take an extreme case, when I have been brought in to ‘fix’ the behaviour of a bully, which has happened on a number of occasions, I have come to the conclusion that, although on a surface level the bully may seem to revel in his or her brutal behaviour, on the inside there exists a person who rather pathetically wishes to be liked. Sadly, such a person has normally learned social skills from other bullies (perhaps parents, teachers or bosses who were a long way from being coaching managers) and has never had the good fortune to work at close quarters with a manager-as-coach role model. The bully struggles to survive what seems to be a minefield of relationships at work in the only way he or she knows how.

The good news is that such people take to manager-as-coach skills like proverbial ducks to water. What manager-as-coach training can teach them are the specific words and phrases to express themselves as the type of coaching manager they would like to be. They learn to understand the true nature of listening, which is not what we think of as listening in normal conversations, and to grasp the rhythm of give and take in the coaching conversation. It is not just a question of understanding the impact that their behaviour has on the people or team working for or around them, but of learning a different way of behaviour to replace conduct that is causing friction.

I am reminded of one team leader on a manager-as-coach course who was so unpopular with his team that everyone tried to avoid sitting next to him. After two days of manager-as-coach training, the group dispersed to practise the skills and regrouped after a month. The team leader humbly (unusually for him) owned that he loved the new coaching way of communication, but that he felt awkward because it was not what people expected of him. One of his team piped up and said, ‘To you it may feel awkward, but please go on doing it, because to us it feels fantastic!’ This not only demonstrated how far this manager had come in terms of his own management performance, but also showed how much the level of trust had risen between himself and his team. In the old days before the manager-as-coach training, no-one would have dared to speak so openly and honestly to him. Six months later, I heard that he had become known in the organisation as ‘the kinder, gentler [name]’, because the difference in all his relationships was so marked.

I have yet to meet anyone who could not become a coaching manager and manage people performance through team coaching. There is nothing complicated or mystical about coaching skills, or indeed about being a coaching manager. In my experience anyone can do it.

 

Why Leadership Should Be Fun

As I began the interview for my podcast, I looked at his boyish grin and into his playful eyes. “My guest today is Chade-Meng Tan, and he’ll be sharing his insights on leading with levity.”

Meng got a puzzled look on his face and said, “Levity? Oh, I thought we’d be talking about levitation. I guess I’ll have to throw out my notes!”

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “This might be a disaster!”

Chade-Meng Tan then tipped back his head and laughed. Perhaps I should mention that Meng is known as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow. “Leaders need to establish trust – and humor is one way of establishing trust,” he said.

Recently retired from Google (at age 45), Meng is an award-winning engineer, bestselling author, TED talk presenter (check out his TED talk where he shares his insight: “Compassion Is Fun”), and Co-chair of One Billion Acts of Peace, which has been nominated seven times for the Noble Peace Prize. As a leader, he demonstrates that you can use humor not only to lead in your workplace or organization, but on a global scale.

In your pursuit of better leadership skills you’ve collected an extensive set of tools: Focus. Vision. Values. Strategy. Tactics. Emotional intelligence. Goal-setting. Decision-making. Storytelling. Mentoring. Humor.

Humor??!

I’ve noticed that MBA programs rarely teach humor. And business books don’t extol the benefits of humor in the corporate – or any organizational – setting. And that’s too bad, because humor is a tool that enhances many of the other leadership tools that you use. Humor enhances communication; bonds teams; improves retention; increases productivity; and improves profitability.

The effectiveness of humor used to be anecdotal. But now it’s a scientifically proven fact that humor has physiological, psychological, and social benefits. Over the past several decades neuroscientists, psychologists, social scientists, and integrative scientists have been ferreting out the secrets of humor.

Research from Wharton, MIT, and London Business School reveal the practical benefits of humor in the workplace. Even “The Harvard Business Review” acknowledges that humor is an important leadership skill.

As a leader, you need a variety of tools that will help you better guide, direct, and inspire others: Your overall temperament and personal style; the manner in which you give guidance, instructions and reprimands; your ability to adapt your techniques to each person and each team you’re addressing (“emotional intelligence,” anyone?!); the tone of your voice; the different styles of communications for one-on-one interactions, for small group meetings, and for large audience situations; your flexibility, your writing style; your confidence; your level of expertise, and – your use of humor.

A good leader knows that when humor happens by chance, positive things can happen. But a great leader knows that humor applied with purpose, intention and mindfulness can change the world.

 

Avoid Giving Wrong Advice

There are a number of reasons why people give unsolicited advice. If you have such a tendency, see if any of the following sound familiar:

1. They assume that the person wants to hear their opinion of what they themselves would do in the situation.

2. They had a similar problem that they solved successfully, so naturally they feel obliged to share it.

3. They worry that, since they are the boss, they will look incompetent if they do not immediately offer their advice or solution to the problem.

4. They know that they are expected to offer advice because they are known to be the “fixers” who can solve all problems.

5. They cannot bear to see how much the person is suffering, so they feel compelled to help stop the suffering.

6. They have a very close relationship with the other person, so it would be rude not to offer advice when it is needed.

7. For the person’s own good, they want to persuade that person to do something other than what s/he is planning to do.

8. They feel so strongly about the issue that they cannot keep from offering some advice.

9. They feel uncomfortable if they cannot solve a problem when others tell them about it.

10. The moment they hear the story, they know exactly what the person needs to change, so they advise what s/he needs to do.

Managers often feel that they are expected to solve any problem that their employees bring to them. Few people like to be told what to do, and this is true of employees. Managers can better serve their employees if they simply act as a sounding board to help guide their staff to develop their own solutions.

When employees are allowed the freedom to think for themselves and the autonomy to act, within reasonable limits, they will have a sense of ownership of the solution. Then their commitment to a task or a project will be much stronger and the results will likely be more potent.

Managers who struggle to reconcile their responsibility to lead with their responsibility to develop their staff will find the OARS model to be a useful tool.

OARS is an acronym for four basic skills:

O = Open Questions

A = Affirmations

R = Reflective Listening

S = Summarizing

Using the OARS Model can help us to stop rushing to give advice and offering solutions. Instead, we can use OARS to guide our employees to their own solutions rather than telling them what to do.

Open Questions

Open questions are questions that do not elicit a yes/no answer. They allow the person to respond in a flexible way. Instead of us talking and giving advice, our employee will do most of the talking. A good mantra for this is: “Ask before you tell.”

Examples of open questions:

  • How can I help you today?”
  • What did you to avoid this situation?”
  • What has worked in the past?”

Open questions begin with Who, What, When and How. It is best to avoid beginning an open question with Why because that can put the other person on the defensive, as in the example below:

“What did you to avoid this situation?” seeks facts, while, “Why didn’t you try to avoid this situation?” seeks a justification.

Affirmations

Affirmations are expressions of emotional support or encouragement. They are a way for a manager to acknowledge the positive aspects of an employee’s performance or behavior. Affirmations are a powerful tool for reminding colleagues that they have the ability to solve problems or overcome challenges.

Affirmations can be offered as statements of appreciation or understanding, or as positive feedback.

Examples of affirmations:

  • “I am so glad you came to share this with me today. I know it isn’t easy to talk about this issue.”​
  • “You really took the initiative when you established the new protocol to prevent future thefts from the warehouse. I am very impressed!”

Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is a communication strategy that involves two key steps: (1) seeking to understand the speaker’s message, then (2) paraphrasing the message to confirm that the idea has been understood. This gives speakers an opportunity to “hear” their own words, feelings and behaviors reflected back to them. We can use reflective listening to help an employee make a decision, find a solution to a problem, or consider behavioral changes. Reflections should be used at least twice as often as questions. The more reflections and the fewer questions, the better the outcome of the conversation.

Example of reflective listening:

  • (Employee): “I was hoping this would never happen, but it did, and at the worst moment when we were just about to launch a new product.”
  • Reflective Listening: (Manager): “It sounds like you knew that it could happen and you thought that the likelihood was low.”
  • (Employee): “Yes, exactly. This is what I mean. Although it was theoretically possible, but very unlikely, it still happened.”

Summarizing

Summarizing is the act of giving a brief restatement of the main points that have been said. Just as with reflective listening, summarizing may also involve paraphrasing. Offering a short summary from time to time during a conversation may help to refresh the employee’s train of thought and get the conversation back on track, if needed. It also offers another opportunity to reflect on what has been said so far. Summarizing at the end of the conversation will help to close the conversation. If the employee has come up with a plan of action, summarizing is a way to repeat the plan to employee for confirmation.

Examples of summarizing statements:

  • “A minute ago, you said you wanted to talk about… , but now… “
  • “So, we’ve agreed that you will write a new report and then we will discuss it again when you are ready.”

The next time you start to give unsolicited advice, grab your OARS to help your employees find the solution on their own.

Tips To Get Supervisor Succeed

There are at least twenty-four reasons why an employee might be unsuccessful when transitioning into a supervisory position.

These include when the new supervisor is:

1. Unwilling or unable to supervise former co-workers.

2. Uncomfortable evaluating employees’ performance.

3. Unable to let go of former responsibilities.

4. Afraid to delegate for fear of seeming incapable of doing the tasks.

5. Unclear about the role of supervisor.

6. Faced with employees who resist the new supervisor’s authority.

7. Unwilling to fire an employee.

8. Unable to prioritize and manage his or her time.

9. Unwilling to ask for help for fear of seeming unqualified for the position.

10. Spending too much time solving employee’s problems instead of teaching them how to solve them.

11. Unaware how to supervise without either micromanaging or abandoning employees.

12. Unwilling to have critical conversations with poor performers.

13. Trying to be a friend rather than a supervisor.

14. Uncomfortable having to side with management despite sympathy for the employees’ viewpoints or needs.

15. Conflict averse, whether it be conflict with or between employees, peers or upper management.

16. Making program changes without taking time to meet with the employees or learn about the program.

17. Sabotaged by another employee who wanted the supervisory position.

18. Giving confused or conflicting directions.

19. Expected to succeed without sufficient staff or resources.

20. Isolated from former friends and peers as well as from seasoned supervisors.

21. Threatened by competent employees so doesn’t involve them in decision making.

22. Afraid to make decisions or to implement decisions once they are made.

23. Obvious that s/he doesn’t respect the experience or expertise of his or her employees.

24. Not an effective advocate for his or her employees.

Organizations can help new supervisors be successful through ongoing communication, training and support.

The communication must begin by making very clear what the roles and responsibilities of the supervisor will be, so there are no unpleasant surprises. After that, there should be regularly scheduled meetings with the supervisor’s manager to discuss progress, concerns and needs, and ongoing support available in the interim through access to the manager to discuss issues as they arise.

New supervisors need formal training so they know how to perform their roles and responsibilities. They also need training to build the skills necessary to handle the interpersonal aspects of supervision.

Informal training by mentors can provide an introduction to and interpretation of the organization’s history, culture and precedent- as well as practical advice gained from their previous experience in a similar role.

Organizations can support their new supervisors by creating a network of supervisors to serve as sounding boards and provide just-in-time suggestions or answers as needed.

In addition, organizations can provide support by having clearly written human resources processes and procedures to which the new supervisors can refer as they handle different situations.

How does your organization set your new supervisors up for success?