When it comes to coaching techniques in business, many companies utilize different methods to encourage their employees and quicken the learning process. Sometimes, a faster approach may lead to less understanding and more room for error, and coaches can be overly critical of their employees’ performances. Struggling to keep the momentum going while addressing problem areas, many coaches lose sight of the real end goal of teaching their employees core values. If you’re a coach, then you may face the same struggle on a daily basis. How can you foster an atmosphere of mutual respect while still commanding authority as a coach in the workplace? There are several ways to improve your role as coach, and each will help your employees learn better, work more efficiently and achieve their best work without suffering unintended negative consequences. Whether hosting a seminar, writing a memo, giving compliments or addressing problem areas, you as a coach need to stay focused and on target with your overall intentions. Employees generally learn best when given a clear set of instructions or when presented with a series of related, focused material. The relationship between you and the people you coach depends on mutual respect, and respect is fostered through useful dialog. When addressing someone with an opportunity for improvement, you should stay focused to avoid overwhelming someone who’s trying to learn. For example, a discussion on the need for greater clarity in expense reports might focus on the use of appropriate terminology and effective use of spreadsheets. Avoid throwing in excess information or unneeded criticism along with your other points. People sometimes have a tendency to address a series of issues all at once, which can lead to an unproductive discussion. Rather than seeing the errors and working out ways to solve them, employees find themselves becoming defensive and instead tuning out much of what’s being discussed. In order to instill positive change, you need to stay on topic and avoid extraneous information. The same holds true in other situations. Discussing a company policy change should remain focused on the topic at hand and avoid additional, unrelated information. This isn’t to say that a routine discussion on dress code changes can’t also include additional policy updates. But a conversation with employees that addresses varying topics such as policy updates, information on parking spots, new software and improved methods for everyday job function will more than likely result in decreased comprehension. In a multitasking world, it’s easy to throw a lot of information at people all at once, but doing so almost inevitably leads to confusion and the demand for further instruction. You should keep your instructions and discussions centered on specific topics to enhance comprehension and productivity.
Avoid Negative Body Language and Tone
Body language and tone play a crucial role in interpersonal communication. When you’re addressing problem areas or discussing difficult subjects, try to do so in person. Written communication can be interpreted incorrectly, and email communication in particular can lead to misunderstood intent and negative reactions. As a coach, you can communicate more effectively in person by being open and neutral. Think of the quality customer service you’ve received in the past during difficult situations. No matter how tough the situation, you’re more likely to respond positively if you’re presented with a concerned and respectful demeanor. Similarly, keeping your body language and tone in check will help smooth over tough situations. Make sure you stand with your arms unfolded and keep your facial expressions neutral or positive. Crossed arms and frowning automatically make people more uncomfortable and defensive, and defensive behavior prevents growth opportunities. Likewise, avoid negative, blaming language and use a professionally friendly tone. Just remember to stay professional at all times. You may be tempted to overcompensate by adopting too familiar of a tone and body language, but as an authority figure you still need to garner respect and trust. To maintain the balance, keep a cool and professional distance while still emanating an inviting tone and body language.
Shift the Focus to a Mutual Understanding
When it comes to discussions concerning problem areas, many coaches automatically approach employees with the negative attitude of blame. The most effective way to raise someone’s defenses is to blame him for a problem. Even if the problem can be specifically assigned to one person, blame never resolves issues. Pointing out flaws only leads to miscommunication and ineffective resolution. In fact, most employees will be so discouraged by blame that they may cease to perform altogether, leading to serious setbacks in overall operations. As a coach, your job is to shift the focus from negative criticism to constructive feedback. You may find this idea challenging at first. After all, how do you address someone who consistently performs at a sub-par level without sounding negative or condescending? If an employee deserves negative feedback, then shouldn’t he get it? In reality, no one deserves negative reinforcement, and no one benefits from it. The only end result for negative reinforcement is decreased morale and an inefficient workforce. How can you foster a positive environment while still addressing problem areas with employees? Your role as coach provides you with a golden opportunity to instill better work ethics while improving work performance. Start with the simple switch from a “you”-based critique to an “I”-based feedback system. Rather than demanding of an employee how he failed to meet an assignment’s deadline, ask him instead how the system might be improved to generate clearer instructions. Redirecting the conversation to a place of mutual understanding will create a twofold effect: The employee will recognize his error and work to address it, and you may learn a more effective way of managing employee deadlines. By working towards a shared goal of improving company operations, you and your employees will understand each other better. Improved understanding plays a key role in effective leadership and operations.
Ask for Feedback and Suggestions
Coaches sometimes forget that the people they coach may offer valuable information. In an effort to instruct, you may overlook a person’s contributions and fail to collect information and suggestions that could enhance the company’s overall operations. Everyone can improve, and everyone offers a perspective worth sharing in an effective organization. If you find yourself at odds with an employee, try asking for their specific feedback. As discussed earlier, conversations between you and the people you coach need to stay on target, and this is especially important when it comes to requests for feedback and constructive criticism. Effective coaching depends on learning how an employee operates, and you can gain insight into the way someone thinks by asking for her opinion on various points of operation. For example, if one of your employees consistently refuses to use the software programs needed for her job, then take the time to discuss the situation with her. Ask her why she uses an alternate method. You may find that her way leads to a smoother transaction and more efficient use of company time. When you ask employees for their honest feedback, you instill a sense of trust in their abilities. In turn, this creates a more valuable workforce because people are more willing to innovate and use their minds creatively for the good of the company. The last thing you want to do is create a workforce full of bland people who mindlessly follow orders. Innovation leads to a better workplace community, and you can foster innovation by recognizing strengths and offering opportunities for improvement. Your job as coach is to produce a cohesive working unit to promote continued success for the company. Doing so requires you to seek and acknowledge company feedback, implement solid changes and generate useful, productive conversations where workers feel valued and appreciated.