The online Oxford dictionary defines a mantra as:
- (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) A word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. "a mantra is given to a trainee meditator when his teacher initiates him"
- A statement or slogan repeated frequently. "the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap"
Defining the Coaching Mantra
As a manager who has to develop your people to a high performance level through coaching, it’s helpful to have a simple coaching mantra—a consistent approach that can aid you in their development. The coaching mantra we have developed in our Results-Oriented Coaching Skills (ROCS) training program provides a useful and simple approach to coaching team members.
The ROCS coaching mantra is composed of three simple questions:
- Does the person you are coaching know what you expect?
- Does the person have the skills and knowledge to do what you expect?
- Is the person motivated to do what you expect?
When coaching a team member, ask yourself these three questions and provide guidance where you see any shortcomings. Consider this scenario: You are preparing for a coaching session with a team member and realize the person knows what you expect but lacks the skills and knowledge to achieve it. In this instance, you would train the person to master that skill and knowledge. It’s important to ask the questions in the order they appear above, as they provide a logical approach to correcting the issue at hand.
The Three Questions of the Coaching Mantra
Let’s take a closer look at the three questions of the coaching mantra to better understand how they work separately and together to achieve a goal.
1. Does the person you are coaching know what you expect?
The foundation of great management and coaching is gaining clear alignment with the team member on expectations. In their 2016 book, First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman point out that in a Gallup survey of over 1 million workers, the number one thing workers want from their managers is clearly defined expectations. “Aligning expectations” is a fancy way of saying that both the manager and the team member are clear about what is “good” for all the vital tasks of the role. This provides the team member with a clear target to focus on during development.
2. Does the person have the skills and knowledge to do what you expect?
A common misconception is thinking that coaching is simply the transfer of skills and knowledge. While that is true in many cases, it doesn’t speak to the expectations set forth by the manager. There are several ways to transfer skills and knowledge so that team members learn the necessary skills while also learning what you expect of them in their roles. The most common way to transfer skills and knowledge is by providing job feedback and instruction. Communication is key, and this strategy creates an open dialogue between managers and their team members. Another highly effective way to transfer skills and knowledge is through modeling behavior (i.e., telling the team member how to perform the new skill or knowledge, modeling it, and then having the person try it in a safe environment where he or she can make mistakes and learn). While both techniques offer their own benefits for businesses, our team has the expertise and tools to analyze your business and decide which approach best works for you.
3. Is the person motivated to do what you expect?
The final question in the coaching mantra is the most challenging. In business, it’s common for a team member to align on expectations and have the basic skills and knowledge to achieve them but simply lack the motivation. The key is to cultivate motivation in the team member. The word cultivate is purposely used here because motivation is a personal and self-defining word. For people to be truly motivated, they have to believe in what someone is asking of them. As a manager, you cultivate motivation by persuading team members of the value of mastering the expectation and then providing encouragement as they make progress.
The coaching mantra is a powerful strategy for managers to use to coach their team members to higher performance levels. By gaining alignment on expectations, developing the team members’ skills and knowledge that are important to achieving the expectation, and then cultivating their motivation, the manager can help the team members reach their full potential. Coaching is an important management role and as such should be practiced consistently and fostered as part of the company culture.