“In both children and adults, there can be a hard-to-deny link between a robust sense of hope and either work productivity or academic achievement.” — Jeffrey Kluger, senior writer for TIME Magazine.
Today’s leaders communicate a vision for the team and blaze the trail for everyone to follow. They figuratively fire up a bulldozer, clear out the brush, and smooth the way from here to there.
Leaders make it easy for people to get where they need to go — and give them hope that they can. Coaching has always been one of the primary ways to achieve this, by offering workers the opportunity to improve. To paraphrase an old Meineke Muffler commercial, coaching can “make them fit.”
All leaders need to do coaching
But coaching isn’t just for executives. A recent article in Forbes magazine pointed out that coaching most often occurs at higher management levels; however, lower level managers often need it most, where large gains can be achieved.
For example, after Nations Hotel Company implemented its 14-step Coaching for Business Impact program, corporate accountants calculated a ROI of 221 percent. In other words, for every dollar they invested in the program, the company earned $2.21.
All leaders do some coaching. If nothing else, they offer input through performance reviews. But providing feedback once a year just doesn’t cut it. Quarterly formal evaluations work better, but you’ll have greater success with even more frequent feedback, assessment, and mentoring.
7 keys to great coaching
Consider applying these principles to your coaching efforts:
- Track your team’s productivity. To coin a cliché, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Keep an eye on your team deliverables and overall ROI using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), time sheet software, or scoreboard programs such as Kaptasystems.com or i-nexus.com. That way, you’ll more easily see who needs help and who already pushes their productivity through the roof.
- Ensure a productive working environment. Avoid micromanaging while inviting ideas, open discussion, and sharing of resources. Make sure that when someone is ill or a position is open, you have enough overlap in skill-sets to fill in the blanks. Continually ask people how they think productivity can be improved. They’ll probably generate some great ideas you can implement fairly easily, even if it’s something as simple as issuing everyone an iPad.
- Provide meaningful feedback, with suggestions on how to improve. When you give coaching, provide some specific growth ideas as well. If someone’s reports need work, don’t just tell them they can’t write worth a flip and need to improve. Send them to training, give them a copy of Strunk and White’s, or encourage them to take a few writing classes at a local community college. Pay for it all. When you provide constructive criticism and some solutions, you can help mold them into who you need them to be.
- Set reasonable goals. Whether it involves finishing up a particular project or improving overall performance measures, provide reasonable goals that include time-based milestones and objectives (telling them to improve 300 percent by the end of the year or they’re fired probably won’t resonate). Show them how they can increase their productivity over the next year or so, and communicate the plan clearly. They may wind up surpassing your expectations.
- Respect your team members as individuals. Do your best to form a positive bond with each employee, if possible (it may not be if you have hundreds or thousands). Trust them and be trustworthy in return, leading by example in all things. Be involved in their work without stifling them with micromanagement, and offer guidance when you can — especially when they ask for it. You don’t necessarily want to be their friend or make yourself available all the time, but you can certainly act as a mentor who aids them in every way possible, showing them the way forward in a manner positive for both of you.
- Support your people when they need you most. In addition to providing the necessities required to do their jobs, help them maintain a reasonable work-life balance without asking too much of them. Be there when things go wrong with their lives and help where you can. You don’t operate a charity, but what can it hurt to give someone extra support when a loved one passes away, or to hold open their job when they end up in the hospital for an extended period? I know of one woman who lost her job when she left work to stay with her son in the ICU after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. So much for employer loyalty.
- Praise liberally. While you can overdo it with praise, the occasional pat on the back or public recognition will motivate many people like nothing else, even cash. Workers want to feel like a valued part of the team, and it’s not like you have a limited supply of appreciation. Even when you feel the need to correct someone, start by discussing the positive aspects of their performance before moving on to what they need to fix.
Good leaders give of themselves. Employees want a good leader to help them do their jobs, be there when they need them, guide them along the way, and prepare that way for them.
In other words, they want you to actually lead. When you can do so with copious coaching, showing you have compassion for them and care about their future, they’ll follow you to the ends of the Earth.
This was originally published on Laura Stack’s The Productivity Pro blog.