By Jay Forte
When I ask people to describe a coach, responses include words like “encouraging,” “connected,” “interested,” “supportive,” and “committed.”
And when I ask people to describe their managers, most of the responses include words like “boss,” “distant,” “intimidating,” “disconnected” and “challenging.”
If this is what most people think of their managers, how effective are these managers when it comes to activating employee engagement and exceptional performance?
We’ve transitioned from an industrial economy to a service economy, meaning that more employees work directly with customers. Successful organizations know that no two customer-facing situations are exactly the same. As a result, employees need to be tuned in and actively thinking to maximize the service experience for customers.
With a manager who coaches – engages employees into more discussions, sets clear performance expectations, provides recurring performance feedback and helps navigate career and skill development – employees can take ownership of their performance and, as a result, have greater motivation to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
The goal of shifting from managing to coaching is to activate greater achievement and performance. So how can managers shift from the outdated manager mindset to one of coaching? Here are four areas to focus on.
- Connect. The starting point for all great coaching is awareness of what makes employees unique and the ability to know how to connect with employees to build a rapport. This includes acknowledgement (taking the time to really hear what employees say) and validation (understanding and respecting their thoughts and feelings). The value in this, other than treating your people like people, is that the more employees feel heard, the more they share.
- Engage. Managers traditionally tell more than they ask. By gaining the skill of asking empowering questions, managers not only gain insight into every aspect of the business, but it also activates employees’ thinking.
- Guide toward solutions. Once you get your employees thinking by the use of great questions, help them learn to solve more creatively by guiding them to imagine and brainstorm. Help them learn to invent several options to each challenge or situation instead of waiting for your solution. By encouraging employees to imagine new solutions, you help them grow, feel valuable, feel heard and, ultimately, become part of the solution.
- Guide toward achievement. Summarizing and bottom-lining help employees move their ideas into action. Using questions like, “What is best option and what is best way to implement it?” or, “Which ideas do you feel get to the best solution and how should it be implemented?” are examples of summarizing and bottom-lining.
What it all comes down to is this: before you can activate the performance power of your employees, you have to be able to connect with them and engage them. This encourages active thinking to find new solutions they can achieve with a greater sense of ownership.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn in February 2017.