Posts Tagged ‘Coaching skills’

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.

Coaching & Communication 2

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

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You're empowered to do what I tell you!

You're empowered to do what I tell you!

In part 1we explored six communication styles:

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

Let’s now consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.


Managers who use this style prefer to manage by command and control and they are sometimes referred to as autocrats. This style means that the manager can exercise great control as he or she can be sure that work is being carried out in accordance with their detailed instructions. This style also has the benefit of ensuring a consistent approach and is likely to absorb far less time.

However, people who work for managers like this often complain of feeling put upon and unappreciated. They can feel frustrated at not being given a chance to have their say and can end up following instructions to the letter and exercising little if any initiative.

Also, from the manager’s point of view, this style does not really give access to the creativity and experience within the team and assumes that the manager has experienced all the problems and knows all the answers.


Here the manager is still the one devising the plans and making the decisions, but does consider the needs of the team buy trying to sell the benefits of his or her suggestions. Notice though that it is still his or her suggestions, without much scope for team contributions. Furthermore if the team do not initially buy the suggestion it is likely that the manager will resort to Tell and insist that the team do as they are asked whether they like it or not.


Tests involves approaching the team with an idea and just seeing what their reaction is. If the initial suggestion is received with enthusiasm, this style of manager is likely to relinquish control to a fair degree and allow the team to undertake the work under his or her guidance. Alternatively, if the initial suggestion is resisted it may be that the manager decides to revisit certain decisions and to see if a more positive way forward can be formulated.


When we consult, we may prefer to avoid making decisions until after the team has had a chance to discuss matters. This can be a problem in that decisions might be delayed until everyone in the team has had a chance to have their say, and it’s far from certain that decisions made in this way will be any better than if the manager made them on their own. It has been said that a camel is only a horse designed by a committee where everyone insisted on having their bit included!


Managers that favour this style like to position themselves as just one of the group whose opinions and ideas are no more valid than anyone else’s. This can create a dynamic team atmosphere and leave people feeling highly valued.  It is likely that groups managed in this way will produce a range of creative ideas and relieve the manager of much of the burden of control. However, as with Consults, this style soaks up a lot of time and may not be appropriate when a speedy, emphatic decision is needed.


At the other end of the spectrum then is the management style of Delegates. This means that the manager explains the requirements of a task and sets the rules and deadlines, but then leaves the team or the individual to achieve the desired results as they see fit.

This quite clearly emphasizes trust and faith in others but must not be done without some thought. Managers need to know their team well enough to be able to decide who should do what, and they must never seek to delegate accountability. In other words, if it goes wrong the manager carries the can – its part of being a manager!

In a future post I’ll examine how we can use a coaching approach to work with these different communication styles.