Posts Tagged ‘Coaching skills’

Can I have that disciplinary meeting now please?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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A friend of mine is in sales. He sells high-end financial services products and is finding it hard going in the current market. The company’s main product has changed, making it much harder to sell and he has been given a new territory with very few of the affluent prospective clients he needs.

Whilst he’s a very experienced seller with a terrific track-record, his results and declining and his bosses are getting uptight. Knowing I have coached around such issues previously he got in contact looking for help.

I wanted to understand what would happen if things didn’t improve. My friend said, “Oh, they’ve told me in no uncertain terms that I’ll have to attend a disciplinary interview where we’ll examine ways my performance could improve; with a timetable and methods for tracking improvement.”

“And what did you say?” I asked.

“I said that sounds like it could be really helpful and could we do it now please!!”

I can see the point of a disciplinary interview for problems of willingness.By this I mean, recurring lateness, continual dubious sickness, being rude to colleagues or customers, etc.

But to discipline someone regarding their ability– struggling to use their knowledge, skills, experience and resources, seems to me to be daft.

In fairness, my friend works for a company that has grown very fast and which lacks a seasoned HR function and this could well be part of the problem, but the story also highlights a couple of crucial coaching principles:

  • Telling someone to be do something does not enable them to be able to do it

and

  • Waving sticks (or withdrawing carrots) may work a treat in motivating donkeys but it doesn’t do much for professional adults in a work situation

I’m reminded of the old saw of the company director who announced,

“Unless morale improves, sackings will continue”

 What do you think?

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.

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.