So you know the drill: Your team (or a part thereof) needs to change, increase performance, communicate more, increase quality or (insert specific change here) – whatever – it does not matter. Whether you picked the team or not, it is your job as the leader to make it happen.
Every leader has faced this challenge. In fact, if you are not currently facing this challenge it is because:
You have done an amazing job of attracting great talent, hiring, and then coaching them to amazing levels of productivity, or
You are expecting far too little.
That is because the environment you are operating in continues to evolve, and as such, the expectations of your team will also evolve.
Now, unless you have been blessed with a perpetually huge budget to hire individuals whose skill set exceeds the job requirements (in which case you will have high turnover and need to hire again), you will have to find a way to increase the skill of your team and align their behaviors to the changing business needs.
So we resign ourselves to coaching the team member(s). When we ask our clients what comes to mind when they think of coaching employees, they often say:
It takes a long time
It is often not successful in driving long term change
Both of these beliefs are not only dangerous, they are also self fulfilling.
So how do we ensure that our coaching doesn’t drain our energy by taking too long, and that it does lead to long term behavior change?
We are going to assume that there are a number of changes that your employee ‘Sue’ needs to make. Now, what we would typically do is make a list and download that list as soon as possible to Sue. Then we would follow up 30 days later. Then repeat for 3 cycles. The we determine that Sue is not a good fit and decide to either find a new Sue, or lower our expectations of Sue’s performance. Sound familiar?
Let me suggest a different approach.
When it comes to coaching, there is an almost inescapable temptation to fix everything NOW. While it is fine to make a list of the most important changes that need to be made, the next step should be to ignore everything on the list except the easiest item that will have some measurable impact. Now, I know this sounds crazy. I have had many managers tell me that they cannot just ignore all the other items that need to change. When I ask them why they can’t perhaps not ignore, but at least put them aside while we work on one item, they tell me that it all has to change NOW.
Well, you and I both know that most people change very little and certainly don’t change more than one thing at a time – so why would we set people up for failure by demanding they change a whole list of things? Now, I am in no way suggesting that the other items on the list be forgotten!
Once we get a change on the easist thing on the list that we have chosen – we will have something to praise the the person on and we can move on to the next easiest thing to change that will have a measurable impact.
On the other hand, if the person cannot make a change in this ‘easiest’ of things, then we may very well have hired a person that is not a good fit for the job… either in terms of behavior, attitude or skills.
Stay tuned for our next post where we will add even more boost to your coaching thru a concept called The Half Life of Coaching.