As a leader, one of your most important jobs is coaching—that is, teaching those who work under you in the organization and improving their chances for success as they move forward. No matter how great you are at your work, coaching can be a major challenge. Performing a job yourself takes one set of strengths; teaching someone else how to perform well requires its own set of sometimes counterintuitive-seeming processes.
While there’s no surefire method for making coaching easy, we’ve put together a few tips that will help you get started.
1. Invest your time and energy in your most talented people first.
One of the most common (if understandable) mistakes that leaders make is to give the majority of their coaching attention to individuals on the stream who are struggling the most. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The team members who are already delivering great work don’t need your help, right?
Well, not so fast. Your goal when coaching is not just to fix immediate problems, but to help set your organization up for long-term success. Coaching your strongest team members first is a benefit to the organization as a whole. It encourages those individuals, it helps ensure that they’ll continue delivering strong results, and if all goes well, they can then contribute to coaching and supporting others in the future.
2. Search for the reasons behind why individuals are struggling.
Coaching individuals who are already strongly contributing can feel quite edifying, but be prepared for the challenges of working with those on your team who are at the bottom of that pyramid. One key to coaching less successful team members is to clear your mind of assumptions as to why they’re having trouble.
Nobody wants to fail, so the only thing you can know for sure is that there must be something holding each individual back from succeeding. That ‘something’ could be a lack of skills or proper training, a personality mismatch with the role, personal issues outside of the organization, or something else altogether. Each of those problems has different solutions, but you must be patient and thoughtful as you work with your team members to determine the best way forward.
3. Seek context around failures rather than blaming people.
When things don’t work out how you want, there’s a natural impulse to blame the actions of an individual or multiple individuals. However, as a leader you should attempt to differentiate between individual actions and situational context. Recognize the ways in which the same action can lead to success or failure depending on the context surrounding it, and use that knowledge to help your team adapt as the context continues to change.
4. Encourage debriefing after each step of a project.
Spending time exploring what went right and wrong is essential to a project’s success and also to the coaching process. Failure can be extremely discouraging unless you teach team members how to learn from that failure. To facilitate that learning, you should schedule regular debriefing sessions after every major step of an event, campaign, or project. This can help strong and struggling team members alike by giving them a more fully-rounded perspective, and providing space for everyone to share ideas on how to address shortcomings.
5. Don’t hide failure, but teach team members how to interpret it.
While failure can be difficult to handle, you should not hide it from others in your organization or try to sugarcoat it. Instead, when things go wrong, you should be open about acknowledging it. Show team members that failing isn’t the end of the world, but is instead an opportunity to learn a lesson. Coach them how to interpret negative events to glean information that can be used to improve in the future.
If you’d like more information on the best practices for coaching individuals in your organization, sign up for a Wild workshop today. Wild Project workshops focus on providing participants with the skills and ideas necessary to become great leaders.