Introducing coaching at work when you don’t have time

By Karen Amos

‘Coaching’s great, but I don’t have time to coach my teams’.  This is a statement I frequently encounter when introducing coaching as a management and leadership approach. I would argue that in the long run, utilising coaching will actually save time, reducing the amount of frequent, small questions to be fielded and building a culture of personal responsibility.

Let’s be clear, we aren’t talking about managers and leaders being coaches in the same way I work as a professional development coach.  There are many reasons why managers can’t just sit down for a dedicated 1-to-1 session with someone, time being just one of these.  What we are talking about is managers and teams taking a Coaching Approach to their interactions with each other.

Here are a few quick tips to help you begin to develop your coaching approach:

  • Listen and show understanding – How often do we interrupt someone, or merely wait for them to take a breath, so we can astound everyone with our superior knowledge? I’m sure it’s something we’re all guilty of at some point.  The first stage in being an effective coaching leader is to listen – I mean really listen.

Tip – One way of checking you’ve understood correctly and demonstrating this to the other person is to paraphrase at the end of their explanation.  Try something like, ‘So what you’re saying is…’  If you get it right, they’ll feel understood.  If you get it wrong, they’ll correct you.  Win-Win!

  • Begin with the end in mind – Good old Stephen Covey embedded this concept in his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and with good reason. Whilst coaching can be and is reflective, its main focus is on what we want to achieve.  Focusing on the solution, rather than the problem.

Tip – Ask, ‘What do I want to achieve here,’ or, ‘What would a good outcome look like,’ to avoid getting caught up in the details of what’s going wrong and indulging in yet another moan-fest.

  • Ask not tell – This is a key factor in coaching – Asking powerful questions. This is not giving advice – e.g. ‘why don’t you do xyz instead?’, or telling people what to do.  This approach is all about asking meaningful, open questions that move the person on to look at the options open to them so they can make a constructive decision.

Tip – There are an endless supply of questions that can be used in coaching.  A few examples would be things like:

o   What’s really going on for you right now?

o   What are the main barriers that are in your way?

o   If you could do anything you wanted, what action would you take?

o   What would your wisest friend do in this situation?

  • Foster personal responsibility – Don’t ‘fix’ – Following on from asking powerful questions, an effective coaching manager will ensure they allow their staff space to work out and try their own solutions. This can be scary initially, particularly when someone wants to resolve things in a way you wouldn’t choose.  Of course, you’ve got to weigh up the risks here – this certainly doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind if someone is proposing to embark on some highly risky endeavour.  Allowing people to choose their own course of action is extremely motivating though and will result in them taking more autonomy and personal responsibility for finding their own solutions.

Tip – If you find yourself wanting to ‘fix’ someone, stop and consciously ask them what they think they should do.  Questions like, ‘What are the main sticking points for you here?’ and ‘What do you think you can do about this?’ are great ways to hand responsibility back to the person.

Hopefully you’ll find these useful on your journey to embedding coaching in your day to day interactions.  One final tip is not to try all of these at once.  Identify one area you could improve and set out some conscious intentions to work on this in your interactions with a member of your team.  That way you’ll start to get into the coaching habit!

Check out the links below to find out more about our latest coaching-based training courses and programmes.  We also offer individual and team coaching on leadership, interpersonal, communication and performance matters.  

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.