Want better performance? Coach your people
There is a constant struggle, isn't there, between the need to get faster results, and the need to develop our people. Ultimately, performance wins out and we end up telling them what to do, we end up resolving the problem, than we take the time to develop our people. After all, we rationalise, time is of the essence, and we cannot "waste" it by waiting for them to come up with the solution. And, at any rate, they are not ready to step up.
Sounds familiar? The fact of the matter is, as managers, we are stretched in opposite directions, and while we hope that our people can grow into the position, and be able to solve their problems, we don't have the luxury of time. Waiting for them to get to the point where they can manage their own problems independently might well impact our ability to meet the bottomline, and that cannot be accepted. Anyway, there will be other opportunities to develop them.
It seems that at every turn, we are rationalising to ourselves that we don't really need to spend the time to develop our people, and that there will be a time and a place for everything. And that is certainly not when it is mission-critical time, and it always is mission-critical! So day after day, week after week, month after month, perhaps even year after year, our people are none the wiser in how to improve their performance because you, their leader, always steps in for them, and solves their problem. Very soon, you have a bunch of people who cannot think for themselves, and who cannot solve their own problems, and who cannot improve their performance. Now who do you think is at fault here, you, the leader, or they? I hope it is obvious to you that you are the cause of their laid back performance, and if you want them to improve, then you will need to give them space to do so. You will need to coach your people into better performance. In this article, we will discuss the importance of coaching for performance, the benefits you get out of it, and I share three methods of coaching that even the most hard-press executive for time can apply it. There is now no excuse for the leader not to manage performance by coaching!
Before we move on, let us first dispel some myths about performance coaching...
(1) they are not ready
Well, the truth of the matter is, they are not. But it is a self fulfilling prophecy - the more they are not ready, the more we don't coach; the more we don't coach, the more they are not ready. Soon, they will be too far behind the curve to catch up, and it would be easier to replace them with someone performing at the correct level - the level that you could have gotten if only you paid attention to it! Not a particularly good position to be in, don't you think? As leaders, we need to get them ready, and not wait for them to be ready! And if that means that we have to invest in them, then so be it. It is better to do this sooner than later.
(2) we are always fire-fighting
Yes, I know; everything is mission-critical, right? You are always jumping from one fire to another. There seldom is enough time in one day to handle all the urgent stuff, much less to handle staff stuff! It is like a battlefield; as each day dawns, there is another mission, another fight, another manoeuvre. But have you ever stopped to wonder if indeed all the fire-fighting can be pre-empted by proper staff development? Perhaps if one was not so preoccupied with the urgent but maybe not so important tasks of fire-fighting, one can spend a little more time in the important tasks of staff development?
(3) coaching is time consuming
Many managers think that coaching takes time, and we have to lead our staff to first identify the problem, and then let them uncover the solution, and finally, have them try things out on their own, only to come to the conclusion that we now have. It seems like a very convoluted way to get people to do what we can simply tell them to. Well, contrary to popular belief, coaching need NOT be time consuming, and we can take these evolving situations as coaching moments. Simply leading staff down a cognitive path, of uncovering options, choosing a course of action, and allowing them to implement them, and of seeing the outcomes, have a more powerful developmental element than simply telling them what to do. And it does not take too much time!
(4) we cannot accept failure
So, which is a better teacher - success or failure? And how do YOU become a better leader; by continuous successes, or by falling down, picking yourself up, and moving on again? If you learn better through failure, wouldn't your staff learn better through failure too? Yes, I know - mission critical, right? So they cannot fail, right? So that means you don't allow them to learn too, right? And let's be honest, would you rather them fail in your midst or fail without you knowing about it? At least when you are around, you can pre-empt the matter and mitigate the impact of the failure. But if they are always sheltered from failure in the name of performance and objectives, they are also sheltered from learning, from developing themselves, and from making the right decisions in the future. Would you prefer to keep doing the same things for the next 20 years simply because your people cannot, and all due to you not allowing them fail in the small stuff?