I had the pleasure of attending the Public Management Association (PMA) annual conference yesterday. The most important message I walked away with is how important it is as managers and leaders to be good coaches. Coaching in the sense of helping to guide your employees to great solutions and goals. One of the greatest tools we have in our toolbox to be great coaches is listening and asking insightful questions. In my coaching training, we called these questions WAQ’s – wisdom access questions. These are also referred to frequently as open-ended questions. They often begin with what.
I’d like to offer 3 easy steps to better coaching.
- Be lazy – don’t jump into solution mode as the manager. You may know the answer and if you always provide it to your staff, they will almost develop learned helplessness. They will stop working and let you give all the solutions. If you always jump into solution mode, you will always be the hardest working manager. Stop it! (said with great loving kindness) Be lazy and listen. Empower your staff to provide solutions. You aren’t giving up control.
- Be curious – give less advice. Ask more questions. If you can get your staff to come up with the ideas and solutions, they will be more invested in the ultimate success. It may very well be your solution. Don’t let them know it was yours. Help them to come up with the same solution through asking good questions. It’s not manipulation. It’s good coaching.
- Be often – do it frequently, meaning listen and ask questions often. Coaching isn’t a flash flood, it’s drip irrigation.
I’d like to leave you with some additional tips that might help; 1) ask yourself how do I help my staff to get clear where their challenge is? 2) Create possibilities, new ways of doing and approaching something. A great way to start might be something like, “Wouldn’t it be good if we had some ideas?” And then let them talk. All you need to do is listen and ask “…and what else?” Keep asking “what else” until the ideas have been exhausted. 3) Think about how you can get things going in a conversation. How do you spark action?
If you’d like to run some thoughts and ideas by me, I’d welcome the conversation! Good luck. Be lazy, be curious and get coaching.