How to be Coached
What are the chances that you, or perhaps your employees, have ever thought, “Gee, I wish the coaching sessions that I have with my boss were more useful and that I really got something out of it”? Here’s another possibility: “I wish I had someone who cared enough to provide formal coaching for me. There are things I know I could use help with.”
Is coaching really useful?
A recent study of sales professionals sheds some light on this question. The responses are dramatic: Seventy-three percent of the employees that were interviewed reported meeting with their managers for formal coaching on a regular, systematic basis. The other 27 percent reported never receiving any formal coaching. The results were dramatic!
• 84 percent of people with regular coaching said, “my supervisor motivates me to do my best in appropriate or very appropriate ways.” Only 43 percent of those without regular coaching gave the same positive answers.
• 72 percent of those who were coached said, “I always or usually get the recognition and encouragement I deserve.” In contrast, a mere 43 percent of those without coaching gave the same answers.
• 64 percent of those whose supervisors coach them regularly said, “My supervisor gives me considerable assistance or goes out of his/her way to help me do a better job.” Just 38 percent of those who were not coached gave this answer.
• 88 percent of the employees with coaching said, “My (manager) supervises me about right; he/she directs my activities but still gives me enough leeway.” Only 57 percent of those without coaching selected this answer, and 38 percent of those without coaching complained of “too loose” or “far too loose” supervision.
• 88 percent of the people with regular coaching said, “I have a very good idea or know exactly what is expected of me.” Only 62 percent of those without coaching gave this answer.
I suppose we could have just given the short answer to the question:
Yes, coaching is useful and it is valued and appreciated!
If you are in the position of wishing you had someone who would coach you, you probably already suspected that coaching would be valuable. So, how do you encourage your boss to engage and coach you?
1. Start a coaching file with your supervisor’s name on it.
2. Accumulate things to talk about that are best done 1:1.
3. Schedule a time for a 1:1 on the calendar when he/she is free and likely to stay free. Label it My Time.
4. Show up at the session with a list of things that you need to talk about.
5. If you feel there are areas of your performance where you could use your supervisor’s help, identify those areas. Bring some ideas of how you can improve and some thoughts of how your supervisor can help you.
6. Express your thanks for your supervisor’s time and attention. Ask your supervisor if you can meet with him/her again next month. Get a time on the calendar now.
If your supervisor “blows you off” and if your organization is a Pohl Consulting and Training client, ask for an hour of our time. We’d be happy to coach you.
How to Get the Most Out of Coaching
Take responsibility for creating a useful coaching session. Come to the coaching session prepared. Have things to discuss. Access (by whatever means) your performance reports and print them out and bring them to the session. This is the data you need to look at historical performance. You’ll need additional information to analyze if you are doing the “right” activities and/or enough of the “right” activities to create the results you need.
If you have them, print out a list of referrals received and sent and be prepared to discuss them. (If you don’t have referrals, make a list of where and how you might obtain referrals and be prepared to ask for input from your coach). Review your prospect list and make sure it is updated. Print out your calling (or arrival) reports and review them. Review your coaching file and have a list of things ready to ask about or talk about.
Once your coaching meeting starts, participate in the process. The coaching session should be a two-way dialogue. That means you need to actively participate in the session. Ask questions – about your manager’s perception of your performance and about his/her ideas for improvement or changes in your approach and/or your performance. Everyone can improve their performance – there is always something that can be approached differently. Ask for your coach’s ideas on what those areas are. Do some thinking about this before the meeting and bring some ideas of how you can improve and or pinpoint areas where you are struggling. Ask for your coach’s help and ideas. Push for specific suggestions. Ask for examples and suggestions for what you could do differently. As much as most of us shy away from it, ask to role play situations with your coach. Role playing can get dramatic results very quickly.
Your willingness to hear what your coach tells you and to take action will go a long way to ensure that he/she feels it’s worth his/her time to continue coaching you. There may be things that are difficult to hear, but the more open you can be, the more valuable the coaching can be. Your coach is much more likely to “stick with it” if you are demonstrating an attitude of openness and willingness to change. Get serious about coaching and reap the rewards.
If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now
Guest Article by Slo Learner, AVP Sales Leadership, ABC Financial
I’ve been in the people management business for about 25 years now. I’ve had some great bosses and I’ve had some bosses who taught me more about what not to do! All in all, it’s been a pretty good ride. I learned early on that I was only going to be as good as my people, so I spent lots of time and energy learning how to lead, inspire, encourage, teach and coach. When I look back, one thing I wish I had figured out much earlier was that if I’d taken a more active approach to managing upward – some call it managing the boss – I’d probably have been a lot less frustrated at times. I know for sure I’d have made my boss’s life a lot easier and who knows how much better our results could have been.
We all get wake up calls and mine came- not from a boss, but from Peter Drucker, the well-known management guru. No, we never actually met, but his advice to me couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. I was really having a rough go with a new boss. I’d taken a “mental health day off” and was flipping through a magazine and saw an article in which Drucker stated, “You don’t have to like or admire your boss, nor do you have to hate him. You do have to manage him to become your resource for achievement, accomplishment, and personal success.” That really got to me. It had never occurred to me that I might be able to do something to actively and positively influence the relationship. Up until then my approach had been to complain to my friends about what a jerk my boss was. Frankly that wasn’t working really well! I was getting pretty good at playing victim.
Mr. Drucker’s quote had shifted my paradigm. Up until that time I held the notion that my boss was in charge of our relationship. Crazy, because that wasn’t the way I managed my staff. And, I started to think about the relationship from my boss’ point of view. How could I make her life better? All those whining questions that I’d been talking to my friends about:
• Shouldn’t she realize I need direction?
• Shouldn’t she know that we need to have a staff meeting once in a while?
• Why does she only tell me what’s not right?
None of that was relevant! I could take the lead. There were some critical things that I didn’t know about her world.
• What were her goals and priorities?
• What was she trying to accomplish and what could we do to help?
• Was I giving her the information she needed, in the way that she’d most like to receive it? (email or memo, face to face meeting, voice mail). How often would she like to be updated?
• Could we schedule a regular update meeting? (I’d provide an agenda ahead of time of the issues I needed to discuss.)
I even went so far as to pull out the personality profiling information our organization had done a few years back (before she was here) and figured out ways that I might adapt my style to hers to help increase her comfort level. I’m a big picture person. She, as it turned out is a very analytical type. From her point of view I was “shooting from the hip” and rarely provided evidence to back up my assumptions.
We scheduled a meeting to talk. I learned a great deal about what was important to her. I left the meeting with a much clearer idea of how we could work together much more successfully. Were there bumps along the road? Sure, but by keeping her goals and needs top of mind I was able to function much more effectively- and for that matter I think she was, too.
These days when I’m asked to mentor a “newbie,” this is one of the first things that we talk about. Maybe you have someone in your life that could use some coaching on how to manage up? We are, after all, only as good as our people and that includes our boss!
Are You Missing An Opportunity to Learn from Failure to Meet Goals?
For many of us, we’ve just wrapped up our annual performance review cycle. Hopefully there were many reasons to celebrate as we closed the books on 2014. Reviews were given, salary increases processed and forms are filed away. If you didn’t spend quality time with each of your staff members reviewing and analyzing the areas where goals were not achieved, maybe there are good reasons to pull out last year’s goals and take a look at what didn’t go so well—even for your top performers.
Start by asking yourself the hard questions:
• “Was the goal realistic and within control of the individual?”
• “Did the employee receive the support he/she needed from you?”
• “Did the environment change and make the goal irrelevant?”
If the answer is yes, you’ve just hit upon an area of your managerial performance that can be improved. While we don’t support “willy nilly” changes to goals, there are circumstances in which revisions are always appropriate. More frequent progress checks on your part can help keep performance on track and provide the support your people need to achieve their goals.
Next, sit down with each employee and in the context of a problem-solving, development discussion, tell them that you’d like to explore why things didn’t go so well and together identify how to develop the employee’s performance so that he/she can have more success in the future.
Excellent managers don’t leave employees on their own to figure out what went wrong or how to fix it. There can be significant value in revisiting a “failed” goal. Both of you can share your perspectives on where things went off-track, your insights about any skill or knowledge deficiencies and create a plan to shore up these areas. You need to hold yourself accountable and share your thoughts about how you may have contributed to the lack of goal attainment and what you will do differently going forward.
As you move forward keep these key principals in mind:
• Connect individuals’ goals to broader organization objectives.
• Show employees that you are a partner in achieving their goals—hold regular coaching sessions. (By regular, we mean at least monthly-the less experienced the individual the more frequent the coaching should be.)
• Learn about and incorporate employees’ personal interests into their professional goals.
• Be involved in employees’ goal setting.
• Take a hands-off approach with high perform ers — they need input and feedback to meet their goals as well.
• Ignore failures — be sure people have the opportunity to learn when they don’t achieve goals.
Why Can’t I Just Help Someone?
Staff Article by Liz Bowermaster, Director of Training, Pohl Consulting and Training, Inc.
I’ve worked in organizations where mentoring relationships are formalized and in others where they were not. I’ve observed highly successful mentoring relationships and personally benefited from a number of mentoring relationships during my career. I believe that mentors can be invaluable in one’s development. There’s a lot written about how to find a mentor and how to “formalize” the relationship. Is all that really necessary?
Step back a minute. A mentoring relationship is really just a social contract between two people in which one person asks for advice and counsel and the other gives it. The idea that the relationship needs to be “formalized” could be very off-putting to some. Think about it. You approach someone in your organization who has greater experience and typically greater responsibilities than you do. You ask, “Hey, would you consider being my mentor?” This person who is already dealing with a full plate thinks, “I’m flattered but where will I find time?”
Here’s an approach that’s simple and straightforward: Think about someone with whom you work who is more experienced than you are; someone who has offered advice and counsel in the past. You already have- at minimum- the beginning of a mentoring relationship. Assuming that this individual has always impressed you with their insight and willingness to share what they know and what they’ve learned, you are in business. To clarify, this person doesn’t have to be your boss or your boss’ boss, but they might be. They may be in another division or even outside the organization. The important thing is that you find someone who has the experience and skill sets you are looking to develop.
Take the time to tell this individual that you appreciate the advice he’s/she’s provided in the past and ask if you might continue to come to him/her from time to time for advice and questions. You might consider adding that you’ll take care NOT to abuse the privilege. Do you need to label this relationship with the “M” word to make it work? Probably not. Would it make the relationship better? Probably not. Maybe. You’ll know the right answer when the time comes.
The idea of mentoring is terrific. The benefits can be outstanding. The difficulties, in my experience, come when organizations and people put un-due emphasis on forms and scheduling and the valuable discussions and skill sharing gets lost in the shuffle.
What kinds of things should you ask of your mentor?
If you are in a sales role, consider asking your mentor to allow you to join him/her on sales calls to observe. Or, perhaps he/she would be willing to watch you in action and provide you with feedback. On the occasions when you encounter a difficult client situation, don’t forget that your mentor has probably experienced similar situations and can provide useful guidance. There’s no end to the challenges that mentors can help you navigate.
If You’re Asked to be a Mentor
If the shoe is on the other foot and you are the person being asked to be a mentor, consider it a compliment and not “one more thing on an already full plate.” Most people who have served in such a role find it very rewarding. It helps us to think about things from a “less experienced point of view” and it can be gratifying to realize how much better we’ve gotten over time with tasks and skills that used to give us trouble.
There’s great joy in helping others. Feel free to proactively discuss how the relationship can work from your perspective or just play it by ear and deal with issues as they come up. By all means, engage the mentee in discussions about his/her strengths and areas he/she wishes to develop. You should feel free, by virtue of your role, to help the mentee learn about any “blind spots” (things he/she doesn’t realize about him/herself ) and if these are developed/corrected the mentee stands to be more successful.
Successful mentoring is build upon trust and engagement. It’s a lot like relationship sales where the client comes to you for help, you listen, help him/her clarify the goals and you provide expert advice on how to achieve these goals. You meet periodically to ensure that things are on track and make changes as the situation changes—always looking out for the client’s best interest.
The Last Word
with LOYD POHL
Toxic Staff and Their Damage to Your Team
During the last few months I have been working with several organizations through planning, staff reviews, goal setting, performance reviews, probation decisions, hiring decisions and termination decisions. While most of the conversations and projects have been routine (for us) and generally positive, I have noticed a pattern of “problem situations.” They – the problems – have been there for a while in almost every case, but various circumstances have caused the situations to come to a head.
I often comment in this article about “relearning” experiences for myself and my clients. We all know how toxic a problem employee can be… after all, the cliché about a rotten apple in the barrel was invented a looong time ago. So here are the lessons it wouldn’t hurt to relearn:
1) Toxic employees do really hurt the team – morale-wise and ultimately productivity-wise. The good people on the team seldom bring up the bad or overcome the negativity that the toxic person brings to work. Bad attitudes are truly catching – contagious!
2) Your other employees are watching! They know this toxic person is hurting the organization and the team. They know more about it than you (the manager) knows and they know it sooner. They are watching and waiting for you to deal with it. The longer you wait to deal with a toxic employee, the less credibility you have with the rest of the team. The weaker your response, the less the credibility you have with the rest of the team.
3) Sort of related to the above: By the time you notice the problem and observe the behaviors first hand, it has already been going on for a while. A good coaching program can mitigate or prevent this phenomenon but the reality is, most organizations do not have a top-to-bottom coaching culture or program.
4) Never ever does the problem just go away. Very rarely the toxic employee might quit before it comes to a head, but usually that is after the “barrel” is thoroughly demoralized and damaged. Never does the toxic employee just magically change their attitude and behavior. I normally try to avoid absolutes but I stand by the “never” in the above sentences.
5) Human Resources should be a support in dealing with these toxic employees. Sadly, in some organizations they aren’t as helpful as they could be. We all know we have to document behavior and follow corrective action procedures. And we should. We should have been documenting the problem all along, but if we haven’t we need to start yesterday and we still have to deal with the employee in the strongest possible terms given the policies of your organization and the laws of your state.
So, what to do:
1) Wake up. Force yourself to acknowledge the toxic employee and deal with it.
2) Start a formal coaching program in your organization. It will help you repair the rest of “the barrel” and will lower the chances of a long term toxic
employee in the future.
3) Get HR (and/or legal counsel) involved. Do NOT deal with the problem employee on your own.
4) Inform your boss and your boss’s boss of the problem and your plan for correcting the problem.
5) Talk to someone about the problem and how you are dealing with it- someone not your boss and not your subordinate. You need a sounding board! This isn’t an easy part of your job!