Telling someone what to do isn’t the same thing as coaching.
We know this, but as leaders, it’s easy to fall into the trap of throwing out orders and focusing only on the task at hand.
In a recent podcast episode, we had the opportunity to talk Cheryl Toth, a consultant and entrepreneur. We discussed the common practice of star performers getting promoted to management and how those performers may or may not be able to thrive in their new roles. Just because an individual is very good at getting the work done does not mean that the person will be a good manager.
Becoming a great coach is even harder.
Cheryl told us, “The manager mentality becomes tell, direct, show, make sure people do stuff on time. But where we’re shifting is to this coach mentality which is completely different. It’s to support, and develop, and engage, and not judge.”
Giving Feedback with Frequency
Some of the techniques that Cheryl uses in coaching include asking open-ended questions and giving feedback the right way. Cheryl recommends that coaches give feedback regularly and in short doses.
Where I work, we’ve never had a super formal review process. We batted around a lot of the different models that are out there, and there are some interesting ones. The 360 degree review creates an interesting way for more than one person to be able to give feedback. A regular annual review allows an employee the chance to get a great snapshot of how they’re doing.
The issue we had with annual reviews, in particular, is that the feedback is spaced out so far that it is hard for the employee to be able to adjust course. The process itself feels like a sneaky form of punishment if the employee has several issues to work on.
I certainly feel like I thrive with regular feedback. I’ve had conversations where someone would bring up a project that we’d completed several months before and talk about how I could have handled things differently. It’s useful feedback, but I’m so disconnected from what I was dealing with at the time that I can’t say why I might have handled something the way I did.
Context matters immensely. The longer we wait for feedback, the harder it is to keep things in context.
We are not a corporation, so it is easy for us to be flexible on these kinds of matters. Even still, more corporations have moved away from only annual reviews to more frequent feedback.
Coaching to Create the Results You Want
I think one of my favorite aspects of the conversation that we had with Cheryl is how effective coaching of a medical practice’s staff can lead to benefits for multiple audiences.
She pointed out all of the benefits that the employees get from being coached effectively, which include things like increased confidence and more control over their own day. Leadership benefits because the staff is producing the kind of results that are necessary, even if leadership has to spend more time upfront in trying to coach people effectively.
In the end, the patients are the ones that benefit from a healthy environment. Systems can be efficient. Employees can make frontline decisions that solve problems instead of blindly following policy, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Healthy people create healthy results.
I’ve worked in places where effective coaching isn’t in place. You know one of those key warning signs: high turnover. As a young man, I thought, “maybe those folks just weren’t a good fit.”
Then I started working there and realized that most people wouldn’t be a good fit for this environment.
That experience taught me a lot about what to look for in a company where I’d like to work. It also taught me a lot about how to engage people and figure out what they need as employees.
Healthy, appreciated people often like their jobs and want to stay.
Listen to Cheryl’s Advice
Cheryl Toth says this and much more in our interview. Take a listen.