Archive for March, 2013

Turn managers into coaches: a champion strategy for driving organisational performance

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

This is a guest blog by Sean Conrad

What is coaching and why is it so important? Oh, and just to clarify, I’m not talking about sports team coaches. I’m referring to coaching in the workplace—the ability for a manager to bring out the best in his or her employee for the good of the individual and the organisation.

What we do know about coaching is that it isn’t about managers providing direction, instructions and comments on behaviour to employees (that’s feedback). Coaching is a unique one-on-one relationship in which a manager helps an employee explore—through meetings, discovery and ongoing dialogue—the obstacles that hinder performance and how to deal with them. The coaching process can reveal a wealth of information that can be used to drive positive change for the individual and the organisation as a whole.

Coaching can be a powerful approach for helping employees who are suffering from “I can’t get there from here” syndrome. These individuals might request coaching for any number of reasons, including a need to:

  1. Clarify goals and objectives, and put action plans into place to achieve them
  2. Resolve complicated issues related to colleagues, relationships and trust
  3. Develop the skills that can help them become a stronger leader, better manager or more skilled professional

When done right, coaching is a great tool for increasing employee engagement and productivity, driving up overall organisational performance. Naturally, this begs the question, “How do you do it right?” Here are a few tips to help you along.

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but it’s an important point—everyone is different. There isn’t anyone in this world that thinks or acts in exactly the same way. Equally important to remember is that the perspectives, motivations and responses of others aren’t any better or worse than ours, they’re just different.

We need to value our different ways of thinking, perceiving, solving and acting. Often we can achieve the best results when we consider all perspectives, and adopt a combination of approaches to any situation.

This means that when we coach our employees or give them feedback, we need to first consider our differences and the value of our differences, so we avoid making judgments based on these.

Do a little discovery. Ask your employee questions about the work situation or challenge to reveal his or her way of thinking, assumptions, preferences, and bias. Here are some questions you might try asking:

  1. Why did they choose their particular course of action?
  2. What do they think and feel about their performance in the situation at question?
  3. What do they think and feel about the results?
  4. What other tactics or behaviours could they have adopted?

Once you’ve helped your employee explore their thinking and feeling about the situation and their perception of its impact, you can share your own observations, including what you saw and what you think you saw and remember.

A word of advice here, be careful not to jump to conclusions and remember that your perceptions might not be 100 percent right all the time—yes, really.

Now that you’ve done some preliminary discovery work with your employee, it’s time to share your perspective. Tell them about personal career examples of how you’ve handled situations that are similar in nature. The objective here is to explore other approaches and to highlight their respective strengths and weaknesses as this is how we broaden our perspective.

You want to help your employee see how a different approach can lead to more effective results, and find new ways that work for them.

Consider offering your employee some closer coaching as they work to change their behaviours and practices. For instance, they might want to check in with you to review an alternate approach before they actually put it into practice.

Regardless of approach, techniques or individual differences, a good manager will work with employees to listen, question and “coach” them to a deeper self-awareness and growth. The outcome of this approach? Greater engagement, higher performance and the ability to adapt more easily to organisational change.

A senior product analyst and Certified Human Capital Strategist at Halogen Software, Sean Conrad regularly writes about talent management trends and issues in industry publication and the Exploring Talent Management Blog.

The Power of Leaders telling the Truth

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

As previously admitted, I’m a Quins fan and I spent a miserable afternoon this Sunday shivering on a touchline in freezing temperatures to watch my team play a dreadful game against their most dangerous rivals.  Saracens had just nudged us off top place in the league and we needed to to beat them in order to reclaim the slot we have held for the best part of two seasons.  This was our first game in their brand new stadium and it was clear from the start they were really up for it.  They seemed sharper, faster, and more dangerous.  Even though at at halftime we were still in the game in wasn’t long before we gave away a try and you knew that the game was as good as over.  In a single game we went from being shoe-ins for a top two place and a home semi-final to wondering whether we’d make the play-offs!

So why is any of this relevant to a non-rugby fan?  I was fascinated to hear what their coach had to say after the game.  We are so used to people putting a brave face of failure or trying to somehow mitigate its impact by talking about the things that went well, or perhaps explaining why someone/something else was really at fault.  In this video, he simply and powerfully tells the truth.  His comments are balanced, neutral and honest.  He doesn’t seek to reduce the consequences of failure or slump into doom and gloom.  He just says that we let ourselves down and now have a much harder task getting where we want to get to.  I’ll be fascinated to see how the team respond in their must win fixture against Gloucester on Friday.  I’ll also be interested to see who he picks, the ‘junior’ players who in the weeks before won us the LV cup or the legends who have won so many international caps.

If more leaders told the truth to their people in simple, clear language I think we might see much better performances.  Conor’s bywords are “Stick to our processes and procedures and the results will look after themselves”.  As a club, Harlequins know what brand of rugby they want to play and you can see everyone in all the squads playing the same way.  This is where values and culture really pay-off, when they are clear, strong and shared.  Everyone there know what ‘good’ looks like.  It is a real lesson for the corporate world where so often they are just words on a poster or in a staff handbook.

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:”  Rudyard Kipling

It is amazing what a bit of trust can achieve

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I admit it, I’ve become a diehard rugby fan, and I support Harlequins.  It seems I became a supporter at a pretty good time because in the last three years (since I have been going regularly) I have seen them first win the Amlin cup, then the Premiership last year and this year the A League and the LV cup.  So why am I sharing this with you?

Well I think that there is a very interesting story behind this year’s win.  This tournament is intended to encourage clubs to give their younger players exposure to the pressure, and the thrills and spills of knockout rugby, but it is not mandatory to field youngsters, as the prize entitles the winners to an automatic place in following year’s premier European competition, the Heineken Cup.  There is therefore a temptation to bring more experienced players in as that prize gets closer.

This year we stuck with the spirit of the LV cup and fielded a very young team, 15 of the match day 23 were under 23, and I think we had a single international on the bench.  By contrast, Bath in the semi-finals and Sale in the final  fielded their first teams, full of seasoned international players as they were desperate to qualify for Europe next year.  Conor O’Shea, the Quin’s coach, said after the win:-

“I’m just over the moon for the group. It is a long way into the season and we face a massive next nine weeks but, for those players, that is something that is a reminder to everyone coming back in the next couple of weeks. There is a good vibe in the dressing room and a lot of very proud parents of young men but it sets us up to really attack what will be ups and down in the coming weeks. We know that.  They have won a national trophy and we said before the game not to take anything for granted because you never know when you will get there. We have been very fortunate to be in a number of finals in the last few years and to have come away with a trophy.”

However, he was quite happy to back these youngsters whom had trusted to get the club to the final, and they repaid that faith with an unbeaten run and really fine performances against much more experienced players.

Trust is a very powerful thing and can transform people when it is well placed.  I witnessed another example of this when working with a client the other week, who told a group of people lower down the organisation that he was trusting them with previously confidential information and looking to them to help him drive performance in their teams.  It is an act of leadership to encourage others and help them grow, to see potential and nurture it.  It is possibly one of the key roles of a good leader.  So next time you have a challenge, ask yourself if it is an opportunity to grow tomorrow’s star players.