This article is part two of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team.
“Because I Said So”
Recently I caught myself uttering the phrase, “because I said so” to one of my kids. I immediately had one of those moments. The kind when you realize that you just did something you swore you would never do. I did it because it was quicker. It was easier. I was focused on completing the task, not helping my daughter.
Effective coaching is about building capability. It’s about creating in others the capacity to solve problems on their own and to think differently about solutions. It’s a way for them to examine their own thinking about any challenge they face. Too often, we make it about giving them the answer so they can get the task done. But that’s at an expense; because now you’ve missed the opportunity to create the capability to accomplish that task, and others, better in the future.
Coaching, Not Telling
Let me give you an example from the corporate world of the difference I see in managers. The first manager I will call Scott. Scott was a phenomenal sales representative and was promoted to manager because of his sales success. Scott’s approach to his team was this: help them understand why he was successful and encourage them to duplicate his best practices to achieve that same success for themselves.
During a sales meeting discussion, the subject of building better client relationships came up. Scott quickly recounted how he created those relationships during his sales career and gave lots of specific examples. One tactic that Scott used regularly was celebrating clients’ birthdays, complete with a delivered cake and a personal handwritten note. He insisted that members of his sales team adopt this tactic for their own clients. I know some of the sales representatives on Scott’s team used this approach to help them improve their client connections.
Elizabeth, another sales manager in the same company, handled this kind of discussion differently. When coaching one of her sales representatives about building relationships, Elizabeth asked the salesperson to come up with ten different ways that they might strengthen their client relationships. Then she asked the salesperson the following questions:
- Which of those ten ideas would bring the most value?
- Which ideas would they be able to execute effectively?
- Which ideas would they enjoy enough to do consistently well over time?
Elizabeth routinely handled these kinds of conversations this way. Over time, her team members came to her with their list of ten items already prepared. Would the same approach work for time management? What about organization, or making more effective cold calls? If one of Elizabeth’s salespeople ended up running a multi-million dollar company one day, how do you think they would approach a challenge in their business? That’s the difference between knowledge, and capability. It’s coaching, not telling.
Scott’s team will come to depend on him, and future managers, for the answer. Elizabeth’s team will depend on her to help them find their own best solution. They will depend on her to develop their ability to execute the solution effectively. They'll quickly learn that the solution is their responsibility. They have to find it for themselves, because they are the ones that have to execute it.
Effective coaching is about asking the right questions and causing different thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with giving a few specific suggestions to get things moving. But if you solve problems, rather than help others solve them for themselves, you will definitely have to solve more of them tomorrow. It’s not easy. But be patient, even when you are certain that you already know the best solution. The most effective coaches often deal with the frustration that others feel when they just want someone to give them the answer. Down the road, that turns into sincere thanks. They are grateful for helping them not just solve the current problem, but also developing the capability to solve future ones as well.
Our job as coaches is to develop capability. And trust me when I tell you that’s worth working a little harder for. That’s also worth renewing my oath to never again use “because I said so” with my kids.