4 Essential Coaching Tips & Potential Pitfalls for Business Owners

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Four keys to mentoring and coaching I learned along the way

When I first became a manager in a large company, I was selected for my individual contributor success, not necessarily for my leadership skills.

When I was selected, I told my second line manager, I guess I should start reading the Manager’s handbook, and he laughed! Go ahead he said but it won’t tell you how to manage! Neither did Management school- 40 hrs. of it!

Once in the role, I was leading a group of potentially top employees, some of whom went on to major leadership roles in major companies. I’m so very proud of that fact that maybe I had little something to do with that. What I didn’t know was that each person in the group came with different ideas about how to do their jobs, different skill sets, different backgrounds. But they were impressionable since they were mostly starting out. Coaching and counseling each employee became almost an everyday occurrence.

And here was my first pitfall, when an employee came to me with a problem, I interrupted them at times and said, “well, here’s what you should do”.

Consider these four essential coaching tips & pitfalls:

Tip 1: listen and don’t interrupt.

Managers like to think they can solve an issue with an employee without adequately listening or hearing the whole story line. How in the world can you solve a problem when you may not know what the real problem is. Let them finish!

Tip 2: Don’t solve the problem at least initially.

Rather ask the employee, “what do you think we should do about this? “What you are saying here is worth noting. First, you’re recognizing the employee for asking them for their judgement and second you are coaching the employee to help themselves come up with options for you the manager to consider. And that is exactly the role of an employee, particularly a professional staff employee who should be sorting out the solutions. And the next time they come to you with a problem they will have learned to bring up possible options for management to consider.

Tip 3: When an employee has made a mistake brought to your attention by a client or other colleague.

 First, don’t assume anything until you have checked out the facts on the complaint. If it is real, don’t let anything linger or fester. Ask the employee to speak with you- one on one- in private.

Let’s ask for their side of the story and rationale.

If the employee regrets the action that he or she had taken. Then the opportunity is more straightforward asking them “what would you have done differently the next time”. If the answer is acceptable, add your thoughts to complete the conversation and encourage, rather than criticize.

Now if the employee doesn’t understand what they did was wrong, your counseling is more involved. The discussion should include to put yourself in the employee’s shoes by telling the person of the mistakes you made when was once in your position due to a lack of understanding or forgetfulness. I was counseled on the preferred way of handling, and “learned” how to correctly handle the next time out.

Recovery– that’s the key message and should be recognized informally for turning around the problem.

Good practice is to note the conversation to file and date it just in case for continued mistakes and issues.  Most employees get it, but some unfortunately never do.

Tip 4: Check-ins (Proactive Coaching)

Whether or not there is a moment for coaching or counseling, a very proactive way to stay on top of your employees is what we call “check- ins”. My up line manager used this method with our group in one of my assignments and I truly enjoyed it. Every two weeks I would sit down with my manager, and she would ask me how are things going for you these days? You could speak to your personal life, family, personal issues if any or business struggles.

It was safety zone which was a way to build communications, trust, and rapport. But often a business issue would be discussed, by my initiation– that’s key. And we talk it out about how to handle the issue and any issues my manger could help with or offer my advice on how to go forward.

It provided a good opportunity to recognize good work, or if something was needed to add to my skill set as to where to get it. We also used these sessions to discuss career moves and future development needs to achieve these career goals.

While I recognize this is not a be all and end all, how to coach and counseling, but if you follow some of these points, you’ll find yourself on more sold ground working with and developing your staff.

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