Don’t be an ostrich – Dare to ask!

By Karen Amos

The change continues inexorably onwards, although thankfully not always at this pace.  It’s clear however, that the current challenges and uncertainties are going to be with us for a significant time to come.

There are an overwhelming amount of challenges facing managers and business owners as we leave lockdown, whether that’s in business, schools, or organisations, including:

  • Bringing staff back into the workplace from home working or furlough
  • Managing geographically dispersed teams
  • Managing redundancy and re-structures
  • Managing the health and safety needs of staff and the public

Whilst home-working has introduced increased effectiveness in many areas, there are difficulties too.  If you’re used to asking a question from the person sat at the next desk for example, there’s an inevitable time lag if you’re homeworking.

Additionally, whilst there was a huge novelty factor for many at the start of homeworking, there’s now a marked division in those who want to remain working from home and those who are desperate to return to the workplace.  Failure to address this will cost many businesses enormously.

Socially distanced working and constant change also means managers have to work extra hard at employee engagement, particularly when there are tough business and strategic decisions that need to be taken.

Of course, with challenges also come opportunities.

  • For managers and business owners to review their role and what this means in relation to the team and productivity
  • To forge a new, stronger relationship with the team
  • To re-generate a more positive culture
  • To harness new ideas and ways of working to strengthen the organisation for the future

The challenge of course, is how to maximise those opportunities in the face of what are complex business and organisational landscapes.  How do you balance the need for honesty, whilst giving your teams the support they need?

The answer lies in questions.  This will be no surprise to many of you that by this, I mean taking a coaching approach.

I know from personal experience that this can be scary.  After all, we may not get the answer we would like!  I’ve certainly worked with some people in my remote past whom I would have quailed to ask for fear of opening the inevitable humongous can of worms that would follow.  With that comes the ostrich approach to management.  You know the one – asking the cheery, ‘How is everyone today? All well? Oh, good!’, whilst departing the room at a rate of knots.  But at least you asked didn’t you?

Nowadays thankfully, I know better.  Asking meaningful questions doesn’t mean throwing yourself to the lions, then being left in a position where you can’t possibly deliver on the answer.  Instead this involves employee engagement in its truest sense, where everyone is supported to take appropriate responsibility for seeking solutions.

Often our first response is to jump in and ‘do the right thing’ like some managerial Tigger, who is inevitably left wondering, ‘What happened there?’  Instead, we’re talking about a more consultative approach.  Coaching isn’t about giving everyone what they ask for – the needs of the business must come first, after all, that’s why you’re all there.





Ask yourself and your team the following coaching questions to help understand what’s really needed:

  • What is and isn’t working for you right now?
  • How would you prefer things to be in an ideal world?
  • What do you need to be productive and well at work?
  • What are your main challenges right now?
  • What do you foresee your challenges to be in the short/medium and long term?

Then follow up with:

  • What would help right now?
  • What can you change in your practice or way you’re approaching things that would help?
  • What practical measures can you, the team, or the organisation put in place?
  • What support do you need, from whom and how often?
  • How can you provide support to others?
  • How will you recognise that things are not working in future?

The obvious approach is for managers to schedule dedicated one-to-one time with employees on a regular basis.  The solution for one employee, may not be right for another, but again this is something you can agree on individually.

Another way to embed a solution-focused attitude within the team is through implementing Team Coaching.  This is an extremely effective tool in times of change and uncertainty.  The team can work out the above issues, supporting each other and taking responsibility for finding and implementing the solutions. It’s also a powerful way to build accountability.

Either way, taking a coaching approach does involve an amount of courage for any business owner or manager, but the positive benefits for the team and business or organisation will be considerable and will far outweigh the costs and anxiety of being an ostrich.

If you’d like to find out more about Team Coaching, get in touch.

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email

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