Previously in this series we have looked at the five stages of the coaching cycle; instruction, demonstration, practice, observation and feedback. But knowing how to coach is only half of the equation. Perhaps one of the greatest barriers to staff receiving the coaching they need is that the leader struggles to find time to coach – it is one of the most common objections that I encounter.
Most people would agree that coaching and developing staff is an important leadership activity but it is rarely urgent – nobody (apart from the staff member involved) is going to notice if you skip a coaching session today but all hell is going to break loose if you miss that project deadline! As a result, coaching doesn’t happen as often as it should and frequently managers will absolve themselves of coaching responsibility by sending people on training courses. We’ll look at the relationship between coaching and training courses in the next part of this series but for now, let’s just focus on how you can find the time to coach your staff.
Firstly, let’s be perfectly clear about one thing. If you are responsible for managing and developing staff, coaching is a core part of your job. No ifs. No ands. No buts. It is part of what you are being paid to do and the main way you can get your staff to perform at a higher level is to help them to become more capable. So, the bottom line is this – you simply have to find time to coach your staff. And here are some suggestions that I hope will help you find that time.
1. Schedule – Build it into your schedule (diarise it if you have to) in order to make a clear commitment to coaching your staff.
2. Delegate – Are you doing things right now that your staff could be doing just as effectively? Is it quicker to do it yourself? Are you hanging on to jobs you like doing? The more you coach, the more you can delegate – trust your staff and learn to let go.
3. Good Enough – Are you a bit of a perfectionist? Do you spend more time than you should on tasks to make them perfect? Can you do them quicker and to a standard that is still good enough? Well here’s the thing – good enough IS perfect!
4. Enjoyability – Are you spending more time than you should on some tasks because you enjoy doing them? Are prioritising these tasks ahead of coaching for the same reason? You don’t need me to tell you that more personal discipline might be required then.
5. Automate – Are there some tasks and functions that could be automated? What are you waiting for?
6. Negotiate – When you ask others to do things for you, do you build in some flexibility to the deadline ‘just in case’? Most of us do. So what does that tell you about some of the deadlines you are working to? Yep, there is often scope to negotiate the deadline and/or the work content in order to buy yourself some more time.
7. Innovate – Use your resources wisely. What tools have you got to help you coach? Are there are other people who could help out with some of the coaching activities. You don’t have to do all the coaching yourself but you do have to make sure it gets done.
There are few things in the leadership role that are more important than coaching and developing staff – yes there are some, but not many. You need to find the time to coach, see it as a core part of your job and prioritise accordingly.
In the next and final part of this series we’ll be looking at how you can combine coaching with training courses in order to make developing staff more effective and more efficient.
Simon Cooper is chief executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of the exciting new book, Brilliant Leader and architect of the Brilliant Leadership workshops.
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