Posts Tagged ‘Coaching skills training’

Coaching and the Hawthorne Effect

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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Isn't it nice to be noticed?

Isn't it nice to be noticed?

If you want to see an immediate boost in levels of motivation, fire up your word processor and create a quick questionnaire for each of your team members which asks:

  •  What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
  • What aspect of your job do you least enjoy?
  • What aspect of your job would you most like to see stay the same?

Type up and issue one questionnaire for each member of your team. You may need to explain that you’re looking at ways to improve motivation and that the starting point is getting a better idea of what makes them tick.

You can get people to put their names on the sheets if you like or you can do it anonymously if you think you’ll get a more honest response.

If you think issuing questionnaires is a bit heavy-handed, pop the questions on a flip chart or white board and have an open team discussion around them. Alternatively if there’s a scheduled performance review or appraisal coming up, factor the questions into your one to one discussions.

In any event you’ll be gathering valuable information about levels and types of motivation in the team which you can use to develop a long-term approach.

However, I promised this tip would improve motivation straight away and it will. Here’s how it works: By asking people questions you’ll be paying them attention and you’ll benefit from the ‘Hawthorne effect’

Perhaps the most famous experiments in motivation were carried our by management researcher Elton Mayo and his team at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne plant in Chicago. Between 1924 and 1932, five sets of tests were conducted in an attempt to understand what made workers assembling telephone equipment more productive.

To begin with the experiments concentrated on improvements to lighting. Productivity indeed improved, but it also improved when the lights were dimmed. This odd result was repeated in experiments which looked at pay, incentives, rest periods, hours of work, and supervision. Mayo advanced two theories.

He firstly suggested that the very fact of being involved in an experiment encouraged the workers to be more productive. It created interest and involvement in their repetitive work, and their managers began taking an interest in how they felt. Mayo’s second theory was that social interaction had a critical effect on motivation because the experiment meant bringing workers together in teams with a positive relationship with a supervisor. In any event it seemed the workers simply appreciated the change the experiments brought about, felt more valued and generally happier and thus their performance improved. So just by issuing your questionnaire you’re showing that you’re taking an interest in your people and that you value their contribution. You should see results improve even if you did nothing more.

This questioning approach lies at the heart of management by coaching. If you embrace the coaching role you’ll be paying this sort of quality attention to your staff every working day. The improvements that follow can be quite staggering. With coaching as the prevailing style you can ensure a constant level of motivation, not just the quick fillip provided by waving the carrot or the stick.

How to coach for Customer Service

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Thoughts from that Coaching Bloke

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Me and my US Coach

Me and my US Coach

I recently took a holiday in Orlando, Florida and came away with a lasting impression about how good the customer service experience was, especially when compared to what I get at home in the UK.

The Disney organisation is renowned for its approach to service and this is fully justified in my opinion and experience, but even outside of the parks my family and I received a level of courtesy and respect that I’ve sadly become quite unused to.

Here’s a sample:

  • My daughter dropped a slushy ice drink (rather like a bucketful of frozen gravel) and within seconds a park attendant swept it up and personally took her to get a replacement. Without charge I hasten to add
  • Running late for a show, we stopped a cleaner to ask directions. She immediately stopped what she was doing and walked through the park with us until we could actually see the venue
  • We lost one of our theme park passes – which is worth quite a lot of money. The customer relations advisor replaced it in about 17.5 seconds and I didn’t need a passport, other photo id, a solicitor’s letter or a reference from my parish priest.
  • The maître d’ at Chilli’s grill, told us, “yes, I’ll serve you coffee, but I don’t think it’s very good, so I won’t charge you!”

I could go on but you get the point.

All this got me wondering where this service ethic comes from and whether it can be taught. I’m a passionate believer in the value of customer service to successful businesses and run training courses on the subject, but is teaching customer service tactics really the thing that makes the difference?

Reference to dear old Timothy Gallwey and his coaching equation once again illuminated my musings:

Performance = Potential minus Interference

So taking an employee with a customer service responsibility (which, by the way, is just about everybody in my view), this means that the level of service offered (Performance) is equal to their potential to give good service less any barriers or obstacles that make it difficult (Interference)

So, offering training in customer service techniques is an attempt to increase potential. By having more techniques, experiences, tools, hints and tips, etc, my potential to handle a bigger number of customers in a wider variety of situations is increased. So far so good.

But what about my attitude – my willingness to act of what I’ve learnt and am able to do?

No amount of customer training in the world will help if I’m experiencing any of the following interference:

  • Fatigue
  • Boredom
  • Cynicism
  • Resentment
  • Fear
  • Etc

And traditional training is poor at addressing these areas.

A coaching conversation, on the other hand, would reveal such interference and enable coach (manager) and coachee (team member) to explore cause, effect and solution. Doing so may also uncover wider issues to do with the organisation’s customer service values, whether its systems and processes were a help or a hindrance and whether the culture supported customer service or got in the way. These could be addressed at a higher or wider level.

I agree that really good customer service is a mind set and that this cannot be taught. However it can be learned and this is where coaching comes in.

Coaching & Communication 3

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

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In posts 1 and 2 we explored six communication styles and the relative advantages and disadvantages of each:

  • Tells
  • Sells
  • Tests
  • Consults
  • Joins
  • Delegates

So how does all this relate to coaching and where would we place coaching on the spectrum. Some argue that coaching is all about empowering others and so must sit ‘right of centre’ towards delegation. However, we can also see that perhaps coaching doesn’t belong to this range of alternatives at all as it almost represents a philosophy of communication rather than a style. In many ways coaching is a means of adopting the advantages of each of the other styles whilst minimizing the disadvantages.

Placing coaching on the spectrum

Placing coaching on the spectrum

Good coaches don’t fear loss of control as they know that the people they coach will have formulated their plans and ideas in their presence. Thus the coach has the ability to warn against a certain course of action if it is against the rules or likely to cause problems. Also, we’ve seen that coaching is an effective way for managers to build trust in their teams and so they can resort to Tell when the situation demands it without worrying about the team being uncooperative or becoming disillusioned.

So far we have considered the merits of various communication styles in a general context. What about when we need to communicate with another to help them develop?

It seems that Tell is dominant here and perhaps this is because most of us were conditioned to learn in this way at school. We would sit in rows of desks while the teacher would tell us what we needed to do and how to do it and lessons would consist of being told what we needed to know. But this doesn’t always work. Try explaining to someone how to do up a tie or lace a training shoe without showing them – it’s almost impossible. To do so requires us firstly to understand exactly the process that needs to be done and then to find the language to convey that process to another person in a way they can understand.

The modern world of work is changing so fast that we can no longer be certain that the ways and methods we used to become successful will be valid for the next generation. Solving today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions is a big risk.

Furthermore, people don’t retain a great deal of learning when they have only ever been told what to do. How many managers have you heard yelling, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!”, or “How many times do I have to tell you?”

Coaching presents a way of dealing with these problems as it is concerned with drawing our rather than putting in and thus enables people to learn in their own way and at their own speed. In this way we get learning and development that sticks in the same way as learning to swim or to ride a bicycle.

There’s an old Chinese proverb which, roughly translated, states:

“Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand”

Coaching is the best way to involve people in their own learning.