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Sometimes a softer, coaching approach gets the group closest to the pin

Recently a member of my team was struggling to meet client expectations. His direct manager (who reports to me) kept me aware of the situation, and was putting in more of her own time than any of us wanted in order to help him keep his head above water. After the pattern continued for about two weeks, it was time to intervene. The three of us sat down and discussed the framework below:

  1. A clear vision of success – the first thing I can do as a coach is help you understand what success looks like. I can describe this in my terms, I can show you prior examples of success, and ultimately I want to hear you articulate how this vision applies to the current situation in your own words so I’m sure we’re on the same page.
  2. Skills to complete the work – in the spirit of “if this were easy, it’d be done already,” you are likely going to have to reach a new level of capability to succeed. Let’s identify which core skills you need to build (technical, interpersonal, communication, etc.) to achieve the vision above, and how you can quickly build proficiency and confidence.
  3. Motivation –  this last part must come from you. Ideally our discussions will tap into some of your longer term aspirations, and you will be motivated for a while. Maybe you will have to find motivation on a shorter time scale: avoiding a negative performance review next month, or just not seeing my smiling face first thing every morning to ask you what the plan is! Of course I will help you with a framework to identify your own personal motivators, but at the end of the day, motivation is entirely internal.

This collaborative, coaching style of leadership might come naturally to some of us, and might need cultivation in others. You can read an example from Michele Fabrizi, a leader who found success through a strong coaching style, at one of my favorite new sites, thebuildnetwork.com.

For a more detail about leadership styles and how to select the most effective one for different business scenarios, check out this classic from HBR by Daniel Goleman. (image above from HBR)

What do you think of this framework? Try it out, and let me know the result!

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