Effective Coaching Starts with YOU

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Coaching to Create a Culture

Recently I was asked by a supervisor why coaching plays such a crucial role in the development of their service culture.  The supervisor wanted to understand what particular coaching behaviors are the most effective in enhancing this culture.  Although there are many coaching behaviors that will influence your cultural development, I am going to address two of them in this blog: upholding standards and positive reinforcement.

Several years ago I was facilitating a motivational and teambuilding seminar for employees of a juvenile court detention center.  This particular team had a great deal of internal conflict and resistance.  The primary reason for the seminar was to get them motivated and working together in a more productive manner.

During one of the activities, I asked the participants why they chose to work at the detention center.  (I was hoping that we would find some common ground as a foundation for building a more cohesive team).  One participant responded by saying, “If I can make a difference in just one child’s life, I will have done my job.  I work at the detention center in the hopes of helping one child.”  I asked if they all felt the same way since they were all nodding their heads.  Everyone vigorously nodded in agreement.  My response was from the heart: “You see hundreds of kids a year, and you’ve done your job if you’ve helped just one?”  Their new common ground: hating me.  Hey, we had to start somewhere.

If people are paid and trained and coached to do a job, we should expect that they will do it well.  I highly doubt that the supervisors at the detention center were hiring people and saying to them, “During your tenure here, it is our hope that you can help one child.  Welcome to the team.”  That sounds ridiculous, right?  But isn’t that what we sometimes communicate to employees?  We set our standards low and become accustomed to underperformance in certain areas.  What coach hasn’t had the thought, “Well, as long as they’re not making any big mistakes, or causing too much conflict, I’ll be happy with my team”?  (But remember, what you are willing to accept becomes your standard).  Or, the ever popular, “I really don’t have time to meet with my employees or catch them doing something right…I’m just relieved they showed up for work today”.  These thoughts lead to coaching behaviors that serve to de-motivate employees and ensure underperformance!  They are destructive to the development of your culture.  Negative and neutral reinforcement guarantee underperformance, as does setting the standard, then not holding employees accountable if they are unwilling to meet that standard.  When we finally confront underperformance, it’s met with shock, defensiveness and resistance.   The employee learns to respond by saying things like, “At least I’m not as bad as her”, or “Remember, back in 1989 when I helped that one guy?  I can’t believe you think I don’t help enough people”!

As coaches, we need to have high standards and expectations.  The person we should expect the most from is ourselves.  If you are given the honor and task of supervising employees, have standards and expectations of yourself.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you do not have time to coach employees.  We are all given 24 hours in a day.  No matter how many employees you supervise, projects you are working on, emails you have to answer, you get 24 hours.  What you do with those hours makes all the difference.  “Time management” is just a phrase.  In the book, 100 Ways to Motivate Others,(100 Ways to Motivate Others: H…) the authors state that “…you can’t really manage time.  You can’t add any more time to your day.  But you can manage the priorities and the things you choose to do.”  Wow.  How about that for a reality check?

You may wonder where to start coaching your employees, and how to fit that into your day.  (And remember, you can’t manage people, but you can coach them)!  You must start with something simple.  Make it a priority to catch your employees doing something right everyday.  Give them immediate, positive feedback.  Be specific about what they did well.  Pay more attention to the behaviors that you want to see and you will see more of those behaviors.  Have you ever noticed that when you buy a new car, you start seeing “your car” all over the place?  Funny, suddenly everyone has a car like yours.  Do you really believe that the car you bought gained in popularity overnight?  Or is it more realistic that you started noticing the car once it became important to you?  Once you decide that it is important to catch your employees doing “it” right, you will see them doing things right with more frequency.  Remember, coaching is a way of thinking and behaving, not an event.

Giving consistent positive reinforcement to your employees will help lay the foundation for all other coaching thoughts and behaviors.  Additionally, holding employees accountable for meeting standards is an effective coaching practice that treats people as capable adults.  I’ll say it again: what you are willing to accept becomes your standard!

Coaching plays a vital role in developing and enhancing your company culture. You have been given an opportunity as a coach to influence and ensure this development at your company, school, hospital, court system, restaurant, not for profit, government agency or where ever you work.  You can do it!  Changing your coaching style may be difficult at first, but eventually effective coaching will simply become what you do.  Now go out there and catch the next employee you see doing something right!  Seriously, get out of your chair, walk away from your computer…Are you still there?  It’s over, move along, there’s nothing to see here…

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