Coaching is an ongoing dialogue between a leader and team members. As a leader, the bulk of your leadership interactions with your team should be some form of coaching. It is an ongoing process with the goal to get team members to replicate desirable behaviors and performance, as well as eliminate or reduce negative performance or behaviors. The three main types of coaching covered in this series will be: Positive Feedback, Corrective Feedback and Training.
Coaching has benefits for the individual team member, the leader and ultimately the organization. First, team members want to know how they are doing, and they want to know as soon as possible. Further, they want to know of how they are doing on a regular and consistent basis. They certainly do not want to simply be told once a year – in the dreaded annual evaluation – they are acceptable, average, or “meet standard.” If you are in an organization where “no news is good news” you can be sure the leadership has a coaching (failure) problem.
Team members who are coached regularly are more likely to be engaged and productive at work. They have higher levels of trust in their fellow team members, their leader and the organization. Praise, compliments and gratitude (positive feedback) help build people’s self-esteem and willingness to work hard(er), while increasing their trust in their leader and organization. Likewise, providing immediate correction, without anger or belittlement, helps team members improve their performance and learn to trust you as the leader. Team members need to have enough knowledge, tools and expertise to do their jobs. As leaders provide training to team members, they become more skilled and efficient; this also strengthens trust in the leader as they see he/she wants them to be successful.
A leader benefits from coaching his/her team by their increased engagement and willingness to work. Great coaches can get their team members to supply more effort, above and beyond what they merely get paid for, on a regular basis. More productive, skilled, engaged and efficient employees will provide unparalleled levels of service and quality for the organization.
People will replicate behavior for which they are consistently and quickly rewarded and avoid behaviors for which they are not rewarded, or for which they are punished. This is based on solid behavioral science including B.F. Skinner’s Law of Operant Conditioning, and it works. When a leader consistently coaches, team members respond. I had a team member once who, when he came to my team, had been pretty thoroughly mentally beaten down by a former boss. He had practically resigned himself to mediocrity and just wanted to get through a day without attracting any attention to himself. He did the bare minimums. However, after a few months of consistently complimenting his skills and performance, as well as listening to him and building trust, he began to improve. He dramatically improved over the next few months and I observed a direct correlation with my coaching and his willingness and ability to work hard, including going above and beyond what was required.
Positive Feedback. Corrective Feedback will be discussed in the two articles to follow, and the last article will cover Training.
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