We talk about workplace cultures all the time. We should call it "Puzzle Place" because all the pieces have to fit together. Organizations and their workplace cultures are really a collection of people-based interactions. The interactions could be among people, departments, the organization and customers, etc. We tend to lay a strategic blanket over the organization with surveys or engagement studies to look at trends of where people are engaged or not engaged. Kevin Kruse wrote a great article in Forbes magazine talking about engagement and what it really means. He references employee engagement is not employee satisfaction and it's really the use of discretionary effort by employees when they are engaged (here is a link to that article:http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/#277fe7d34629
Why won't managers coach and what to do about it? We've been teaching managers how to coach for almost 20 years now. One fundamental thing continues to be prevalent when we hear about the struggle to get managers to coach. They don't have enough time. In reality, they do have time. When we think about situations where a manager has to hire because they've lost employees due to another company or a competitor hiring them, what do they do? Scream that they don't have time? Of course not. They have to be involved in the interview process. Where does this time come from? The time comes from the everyday day to day timeframe of 8 to 5. Managers do have time. Let's be honest, they choose not to use the time to coach because in their mind, there are potentially other things that are more valuable.
Can managers have a conversation? Okay this sounds really ridiculous doesn't it? Think about it, can managers really have a coaching conversation and what's the difference between a coaching conversation and a regular conversation?
The objective of a coaching conversation is to ask questions and learn about employees strengths, and inhibitions, and opportunities to improve. Telling someone what to do such as, "being friendlier to customers in customer service", or "we need to increase our sales because we're running behind", those are mandates and rhetorical directives. Where as a coach would ask, "what's inhibiting you?" What do you need to improve in order for your sales or customer service metrics to go up? These conversations seem to be very difficult for managers so why do managers struggle with this type of conversation?
- They do not practice.
- They need to understand it's a totally different conversation unique to itself.
- They need to be trained in the art of crafting questions that create understanding and discovery as well as promote and motivate employees to preform better.
- They need to practice and have time afforded to them that allow them to practice.
- They need to be supported on an ongoing basis long after the training is over.
If we take the time and really craft an approach to support managers to learn how to have the coaching conversation the training will not go by the wayside. For far to long training departments have been blamed or positioned to deliver more training when in fact, training's never really been the problem especially when it comes to managers coaching, it's getting the managers to sustain what has been taught.
When we think about support, what does support look like? Support is actually crafting sessions such as, a best practice session around a customer service team who needs to deal with angry customers more effectively. The session could literately have managers crafting out questions of what they would ask their team, or particular members of their team, to better understand why they are struggling with handling angry customers.
These type of sessions usually create an "ah-ha" moment for managers meaning, they come up with questions and once they apply them they start to learn what their people can or cannot do, this sadly is a huge eye-opener for many managers.
This is not to blame managers but I think we as training professionals have a wonderful opportunity of making it more comfortable for them. It's much like going into a foreign country in immediately been expected to speak their language when in fact it takes time much like a coaching conversation. This is not meant to be presented solely as a challenge, rather this is a huge opportunity for training leaders to position managers to have such conversations. How does a training professional do this? First, they also need to be able to have the coaching conversation with the manager to enable them to coach. Second, we need to streamline the coaching conversation and make it easy for them!
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Making Coaching Conversations Easier With Coaching Prescriptions: