Posts Tagged ‘difference’

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.

Dare to be different

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Someone raised the question the other day “How do you stand out from all the other coaches?“. A very good question but one which applies just as well to many, if not all businesses. I think in this area especially, the answer is ‘dare to be different’. If you are a ‘me too’ coach offering basically a generic service you’ll deliver a certain service and value but you will always be vulnerable to being undercut or replaced. If, however, you follow your own light and are able to harness your own unique talents and insights, you won’t fit everyone, but you will always be authentic and no one can ever be quite the same, so you will have an inherent advantage. Sometimes the best way to stand out in a crowd is just to be you.

I don’t tell my clients what to do, or very often, how to do it, but tend to just offer another way of looking at things, or a different perspective, that allows them to have more and different options. This is often all it takes to ‘unstick’ someone and allow them to once more flow down their path. If at the end of the conversation I hear “Thank you, that was very useful!” I know I’ve done my job.

I’m different…

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

I was thinking this morning about my blog and some of the responses that I got to it, and I realised that there are some experiences that just change you in ways that alter your DNA.   People who have not shared those experiences can never understand those who have.  My father’s generation went to war; at 18 he was serving in the army, and fighting for his country.  He knew what it was to lose friends, to see homes go up in smoke, to have the very fabric of his world threatened by something alien.  Despite being brought up on countless war movies and comics depicting these themes, I have no idea what it was to live through that.  There are other similarly defining experiences and loss is a key one, whether it is loss of a loved one, loss of a limb or faculty, loss of wealth or health. 

We all take for granted those things that are ever present in our lives.  I can truly say that we knew my wife was a special presence in our lives, but like the oxygen you breath, you do expect it to be there.  I don’t think this is something that you ever get over; it is merely something that you get used to.  My children have said this.  They know that they have somehow been deprived of something that has defined them, and this event too will fundamentally alter their views and lives.  They will never again be able to believe that those you love can not suddenly vanish from your world.

One person shared with me that that they too had lost their mother at 25 and I knew that she knew what my children were feeling; another kind soul said that she had no such experience.  I’m glad of this but it is gap that cannot be spanned by empathy. 

We seem to believe that that talking makes everything better somehow, but I have to tell you that the experience thus far in this home is that it changes nothing and is pretty pointless.  In the end you are left with the same reality and simply have to adapt.

We all believe that we are different, and of course we are, but I am coming to believe that it is our experiences, and how we interpret them that define us…

Hatred & Diversity

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I was listening to an article on the radio this morning about troubles in Eastern India where radical Hindus are are apparently attacking Christians, have burnt down churches and even got involved in gang rape.  Elsewhere Jews are persecuting Muslims, nominal Christians are anti-Semitic and militant Islam seems to hate everyone else!

It seems that there is quite a deep need to feel superior to others, to believe that there is only one ‘true path’, to distrust and fear those who are different from us.  The odd thing is that no matter how we change the badges, we always seem to recreate the ‘Us & Them’ thing.  Within a group or organisation there always seem to be factions.  Think about  the divisions within the Christian church.  I was deeply shocked to discover that even within my own family that two cousins were now no longer speaking to their nephew because his wife is from the wrong sect… How’s that for loving thy neighbour?

These days we are all supposed to be respecting diversity and enjoying the multi-culturalism.. and yet… and yet we fear those who are different rather than being enriched and stimulated by them.  If we aren’t secure in ourselves we are far more likely to be judgemental of others’ choices.  We would never suggest that everyone should eat only one sort of cuisine; why do we expect others to agree with all our other choices and views?

We need to find ways in which it is safe to disagree and explore those ideas, that is where progress comes from…

“Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.”   Mahatma Gandhi

“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.”  Judith Henderson