Coaching in the business world gets a lot of lip service. If you ask most managers whether coaching is an important function to their job, they will say, "Yes." However, if you observed them for a period, you probably would see something different. Most organizations hold managers accountable not for the development of their teams, but rather for results. So, not surprisingly, that’s what managers focus on—driving results.
However, while driving results is key to a manager’s role, team, and the organization’s success, so, too, is good development through coaching. In one sense, results are the outcome of good coaching, or coaching is the long-term investment managers make to achieve the results they want. Having a focus on driving results and developing your people is what Ken Blanchard says distinguishes great managers from average ones. The great ones drive results and develop their people!
To be an effective coach who doesn’t focus only on results, you need to have a coaching mindset. A mindset is a mental attitude or a fixed state of mind. Therefore, a coaching mindset is the:
Belief that you can cultivate someone’s skills, knowledge, and behaviors through instruction, application, and feedback.
Manager Behaviors with a Coaching Mindset
So what does a coaching mindset look like? If you were to follow a manager who has a coaching mindset, you would see the manager do six things routinely with his or her people:
1. Prioritize employee development
Coaching doesn’t take a back seat to achieving results. Instead, managers with a coaching mindset prioritize coaching as high as other activities, including achieving results, by establishing coaching objectives with everyone, not postponing coaching sessions, and recognizing developmental accomplishments.
2. Communicate candidly and often
Managers with a coaching mindset “call them like they see them,” which means when they observe good performance, they give positive feedback. When they observe performance that can improve, they provide constructive feedback. They do this whenever an occasion arises, which means they look for opportunities to give feedback.
3. Be organized and focused
Having a coaching mindset involves carefully thinking through the development of the team and establishing a developmental plan for each person. Good development is a logical sequence of coaching sessions that build from one to the next.
4. Show empathy, but be firm
Managers with a coaching mindset recognize that learning a new skill, knowledge, or behavior will be challenging for team members. Displaying empathy but being firm about team members having to do the developmental work is a key attribute of a coaching mindset.
5. Focus more on strengths than weakness
Managers with a coaching mindset approach development from the standpoint that they are trying to help team members reach their full potential rather than from the standpoint that they are trying to fix something all the time. The best way to accomplish this is by focusing on what team members are doing well and helping them move to a higher performance level.
6. Be personable and flexible
Managers with a coaching mindset individualize the coaching to the team member they are developing, leveraging the person’s strengths and helping the person achieve his or her full potential. A good coaching plan must be flexible and dynamic, which means the manager needs to change it as circumstances and the team member develop.
Too many managers focus on only results. While results are important, they don’t sustain team members or prepare them for the future. Having a coaching mindset that helps develop your team members to their full potential through the thoughtful execution of long-term coaching plans, providing good feedback, and placing a priority on development will not only achieve better results, it also will create a better workplace for the team members.