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Seven Best Ways Managers Can “Coach” Employees To Boost Productivity and Engagement

Is your traditional management style getting in the way of your success? If so, stop managing and start coaching with these seven best practices.

1. CONNECT WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES Build a trusting relationship and get to know your employees on a personal level. Coaching-managers should know the strengths, passions, and skills of their employees. Successful businesses nurture relationships with customers, so why not nurture relationships inside your organization? It doesn't mean you have to become best friends with your employees, but treat people like people, not tools or just a resource to get the job done. By building strong personal relationships, managers naturally bridge distances that cause fear and disengagement, thereby building stronger connections which drive greater trust and productivity. 2. ADOPT BRIEF INTERACTIONS TECHNIQUE Coaching managers choose to make people feel powerful with short interactions.  Long gone the traditional manager who is having unproductive meetings filled with updates, instructions, directions, and deliverables that impose their ideas and that don’t allow for interactive learning. Opportunities for such short interactions can take place in the hallway, in the lunch room, or as a quick follow-up to an earlier meeting. They do not need to be formal, and can be a “spur of the moment” discussion. Try these types of questions for short empowering conversations.

  • What’s working for you these days?

  • What are you doing that produces that success?

  • What impact or results have you seen by doing that?

  • How might you do more of that? Or where else can you apply that insight?

3. ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOUR EMPLOYEES SAY Acknowledging the opinion of an employee is a powerful listening and communication skill . It translates to an employee that you have listened to what they have said, and that you care. Acknowledging is rephrasing or mirroring back what you heard and it ensures understanding. An employee might share that they are trying to improve their sales numbers, but it seems like whatever they are doing doesn’t seem to be working. A coaching-manager should acknowledge that statement by saying “So what you are saying is that you’re putting in so much effort, but not getting the results you want?” This can lead to another question such as "How can I help?" Or "What have you tried so far?" A few approaches for acknowledging statements include,

  • In other words, what I hear you saying is________. Is that correct?

  • Let me be sure I got this…then explain what you heard.

  • What you are telling me is that …

  • So, when you do_________, __________happens? 

4. NURTURE LEARNING THROUGH CONSTRUCTIVE CURIOSITY Respectful curiosity inspires learning and says others matter. A coaching manager may ask questions to learn what worked; How do you feel about what you’ve completed? What would you change in the future? Will that work with other clients or on other projects? How can you develop that idea to make it work for others? Be careful not to ask questions that sound like accusations or infer negative thoughts. For example, don’t ask, “Why didn’t that work out for you? Why did you lose that deal?” To rephrase, ask, What could you have done differently to win that client? What did you learn from that process or experience that could help you win future deals? Avoid the need to have all the answers, draw from the conversation behaviors and actions that will work or solve issues, and then make them practicable. 5. RECOGNIZE SUCCESSES & BEHAVIORS THAT PRODUCE GOOD RESULTS When success happens, even small wins, traditional managers often push for more, or better, rather than recognize or appreciate the current win. This can be ambiguous or dis-concerning. Coaching-managers push for more, they celebrate and acknowledge wins to inspire learning and behaviors that produce results. They ask about behaviors that drive better performance. 6. IGNITE ENERGY We’ve all had managers who drained the life out of us. Telling us when, how, and what to do based on how they want things done. Or asking us leading questions to the point that no matter what we have to say, we end up having to do it their way because “it’s just easier” which leads to disengagement, less productivity, and worse yet, underperformance. Coaching-managers ignite energy. They look for energy in their employees and figure out what caused it. They listen for enthusiasm in their employee’s voice, they watch for their employee’s eyes to light up, they become aware of when their employee is excited about what they are doing. Then they ask themselves, ―”What just happened? What behavior inspired that energy? How can I encourage this behavior to make more progress?” Focusing more on solutions fuels energy. Focusing on problems drains energy. The best way to fuel energy is by identifying ways to make progress. Coaching managers ask empowering questions like:

  • How can we make it better? Avoid saying, “What went wrong?”

  • What can we learn from this? Avoid saying, “That was a failure”.

  • What will you do differently in the future?

Identify small behaviors or steps that partially solve a problem. Small steps in the right direction can create a positive domino effect often resulting in a much bigger impact than expected. Moreover, remember that energy attracts like energy, and positive energy will spread like a virus in a good way. 7. FOCUS ON EMPLOYEE STRENGTHS AND NOT HOW TO “FIX” PEOPLE Traditional managers tend to want to “fix” people, or in their minds, “help people become better”.  Don’t try to fix your employees or tell them how to do everything. Being fixed, disempowers. Telling people what to do or how something should be done makes them feel like their experience, skills, and ideas are not being heard or that they are not good enough to get the job done. It can be perceived as “he/she does not value me” and fear sets in. People don’t need to be fixed, or to do things your way in order to be successful. Find a balance. Accept that others can be successful; they just may choose a different path to achieve the same outcome. Accept their strengths and what they can do vs. how you think they should be doing it. Explore and ask questions like, How will you achieve the targeted results? What actions will you take to achieve the desired outcome? What would be your next steps? What obstacles might get in the way of your success if done that way? Don’t reject their ideas, acknowledge them. If you still don’t feel they will be successful, ask clarifying questions, seek permission to share ideas, but do not tell them how to do their job. Empower your employee by focusing on the desired outcome. They will step up! Interested in developing your leadership skills through coaching? Connect with me!

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