Coaching is an important skill for all people managers that makes feedback conversations easier, increases productivity, and gets employee buy-in for a change you want to see. With self-evaluations and performance conversations coming up or to just make your regular 1-1s more productive, integrating a coaching approach is win-win.
The problem is conventional training programs can be complicated and if you’re not a coach, the conversation can feel unnatural.
In this MVP (Most Value Podcast 😊) episode, I’m sharing a simple process you can use in your next 1-1 that is going to increase engagement and make your job easier. No fancy theories or models, just tangible steps and specific questions to ask in your next 1-1.
What you’ll learn:
- The coaching skills all managers should have
- How to help your employees feel valued
- A simple coaching process and questions to use in your next 1-1 or performance discussion
- The fail-proof coaching strategy for non-coaches
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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast with me, Melissa Lawrence. I’m a career and life coach with all the corporate credit and talent development and organizational psychology. I help women like you get extraordinary results by being more you, not less. I won’t just help you have a career experience worthy of you, but I will help you build your self-worth to shift what you think is possible and take the action that will create the career you’ve always wanted, whether it’s more meaningful work you’re passionate about, making more money, getting to your next level, or being more effective as a leader. We are shattering the glass ceiling here, the one that exists for women at work and the one we put on ourselves with our doubt and inner critic. Each week, you will get practical teachings grounded in neuroscience and effective career development strategies. You’ll experience deep mindset shifts and the perfect amount of woo. So you can run your career with ease rather than your career running you. You were born for more, and I’m going to help you get there with maybe a few dance parties along the way. Your up-level begins now.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I cannot believe that we are in the fourth quarter already. This year has just flown by, but it is October and this is my favorite time of year. My birthday is in September. My daughter’s birthday is in October. My wife’s birthday is also in September. It’s just a really big birthday time of year. But I also just have always loved the way that the colors change in the area that I live in both here in Maryland but also back in Wisconsin. I love the apple cider and the pumpkins and just all of the things that fall brings. It’s also the beginning of the holiday season, so I’m just looking forward to all of that. I also have some really fun things coming up. I have some friends that are out in Wisconsin that have never been out here that are going to come visit us in a couple of weeks. I also am doing something I’ve never done before. I’m going to Bravo Khan. If you have known me personally in any way, if we have worked together, if you have seen my behind-the-scenes, you may have seen some rare clips or insights on my love of Bravo-Con, and I have had it on my list to go to Bravo-Con at some point in my life.
I kind of thought it would still be in New York City, but it’s not, so I’m traveling a little bit farther and I’m going for Bravo-Con in November and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s just going to be all things reality, TV, and drama. I’m actually thinking of doing a podcast episode from Bravo-Con or about it. Sometimes I watch those shows and I just find them really interesting, the relationship dynamics. They all… Well, some of them have careers. A lot of them are entrepreneurs now on shows. I will have advice for them. I will have coaching for them based on where they’re at with their career, the things that they’re talking about. I thought, well, wouldn’t it be fun to do a podcast episode about that, to talk about some of these problems and offer some career coaching? I’m thinking about doing that. If that’s something that sounds fun for you, let me know. We can talk about our love of Bravo together. Anyway, all of that aside, fourth quarter makes me think of how we are approaching the end of the year, the goals that were set in the beginning of the year, especially my corporate days.
This was a time that we were getting ready to do self-evaluation, so I would start to think about what did I achieve this year? What were my big accomplishments? Where did I fall short if I did it all? What were the things that I hoped I had done better? I can really be prepared to really show how I shined right on my self-evaluation because that becomes the basis. That conversation and what you fill out there becomes the basis of your performance review that typically happens in the beginning of the following year, so in the beginning of next year. As I was thinking about this time of year for many of you and also just the conversations I’ve been having with my leadership clients, especially around feedback and performance reviews and problematic behavior or trying to help an employee grow in a certain area or trying to get feedback from an employee and they’re saying everything’s fine, all of those things that can happen, the ability to be able to coach your employees or coach other people is really valuable. In my experience, the way that this can be taught at work can be really overwhelming.
It’s one more thing you have to learn. It’s one more thing you have to do. It’s a framework for a model you have to master. That’s really not the only way to do this. There’s so much value in learning how to do and learning how to coach your employees so that you can get more buy into the changes you want to see, whether it’s with a direct report or even with a stakeholder on a project team. I’m going to bring back an episode from almost a year and a half ago, Simple Coaching Skills for Managers. In this episode, I share with you how taking a coaching approach at work will help you make work easier and more productive, but also how it can make one-on-one and feedback conversations go more smoothly. I’m giving you a fail-proof and simple coaching strategy that you can use right now, specific questions you can ask in your next one-on-one or when you have performance conversation. This is no complicated model, no overwhelm, just better conversations, higher productivity, and easier feedback conversation. Are you ready? Whether it’s your first time listening or you haven’t listened to this one for a while, you’re going to take some practical strategies away that you can use right now.
Let’s dig in. Hello, hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I’m really excited to talk to you about today’s topic. We are going to talk about coaching skills for managers. Simple coaching skills that you can apply right away. Now, obviously, I’m a coach, so I believe deeply in the power of coaching and that it is the best development tool ever. There is nothing else like it. I always say that your brain can’t solve your brain’s problems. And what coaching does is it helps you have awareness to things that you can’t see yourself and helps you trust yourself and build confidence to go after the things that you really want. In addition, the coaching style that I have is that I combine this awareness and mindset piece, which really helps you learn about yourself and your blind spots, but also stop self-sabotage before you do something that will not get you the results that you want. I can point it out to you and show you as an objective observer what is happening in your brain. But not only that, you also get career strategy and development. You get custom tools and steps to walk you right into your next job or promotion to know what you want to communicate more effectively to influence and advocate for yourself.
This combination of mindset and career development is a winning combination for my clients. So if you’re a people manager listening and wondering, Well, I’m not a professional coach, but I can see the value in this for my employees, how can I get started? This episode is for you. Or maybe you’re not sure what the hype is and you want to learn more about it so that you can use this as a tool with your team. Maybe your organization has some coaching for leaders programming that you’ve taken, but you’ve been struggling to implement it in a consistent way. This episode is going to help you so much. If you’re not a people manager, this is going to help you because it’s going to help you be more coachable for your manager, which is going to get you better results. You could even apply what I’m going to share with you to better solve your own problems and get into action when you’re feeling stuck. Let’s talk about what coaching is. I actually have a whole podcast episode on this that you could go back and listen to that provides a lot of great information. But for today, we are going to keep it brief.
Coaching, in a nutshell, is a development tool that guides someone with strategic questioning to bring awareness to themselves and help them take action toward what they want. Let me say that again. Coaching is a development tool that guides someone with strategic questioning to bring awareness to themselves and help them take action toward what they want. The premise of coaching is that the answer lies within the person and that they will develop in a more meaningful way by uncovering what they want and understanding themselves deeper than they would if you simply told them what to do. When you work with someone like me that has a psychology and talent development background, you get a very niche flavor of coaching. I can take you deeper into behavioral science, the way your brain works, and why, and help you create new neural pathways in your brain so that you think differently and ultimately get different results. I can also advise you on specific career challenges like getting promotions, new jobs, knowing what you want, and being more effective as a leader. I have specific processes that I’ve created using my education and my experience and my expertise that help you get quick results.
Now, these are areas of expertise that I bring to my coaching. It is part coaching through strategic questioning, which I’m going to share with you how to do today. Then there’s the advising or consulting piece on career strategy and development. But let’s go back to the definition as I described it here today. It’s strategic questioning to bring awareness and help the person take action toward what they want. That is the skill that is so useful for managers, and here’s why. Everyone in the workplace is an accomplished adult with their own set of experiences and beliefs. Every person on a basic level wants to feel that they belong and that they are valued and that they are contributing. One way to threaten this sense of belonging and value is to simply tell an employee that their way is wrong and that they need to do something else. Imagine if you made a decision at work because you thought it was the best thing to do, the right path forward, you felt really good about it. You thought it was going to make a big difference, make things easier for people, and then your boss started asking you questions like, Why did you do that?
You should have talked to me first. This isn’t how we do things here. Next time you need to do X, Y, Z, whatever it is that you think they should do. You would probably feel defeated, maybe even angry. You might question if you’re valued because you were hired for a specific expertise and you’re doing what you thought was right. So employees need to feel that they are valued, contributing that they belong. Coaching can be a tool that you use to explore decisions the employee made when they did something that you don’t agree with, and that is not threatening to them and can actually lead them to better understanding for themselves and for you on other perspectives. And the conclusion of that is going to be them developing what action that they would take that is different from what they did all on their own without you telling them that they are wrong. But coaching isn’t just about fixing or performance issues, right? That’s a misunderstanding that coaches come in when there is a problem. It can also be used to help your employee understand what they want for themselves, what their strengths are, and how they want to contribute to the team and to the company.
It can also be really helpful for project-related work, for problem-solving. It can be used to help the employee come up with their own answers and better use their expertise at work and break the pattern of always asking their boss what to do. Now, there are a lot of coaching models out there. Grow is a popular one in the corporate world, and there are many others. Where I’ve seen coaching for leaders fall short is it may provide a tool, maybe the information is provided to you, maybe a demo. But if you’re not a coach and don’t really understand why you would use this and how it can help you and have some quick, simple ways to get started that don’t feel difficult or you’re doing something unnatural, then it just stays something that’s on a shelf that you just don’t ever really take out or use consistently. That is what I’m hoping to break you of in this episode, whether it’s something that you’ve learned before and you’re having a hard time getting started, or maybe you’ve never even heard of this before and you’re wondering what it’s all about. I’m not going to share a fancy model or talk in theory.
Instead, I’m just going to tell you what it is, why you should try it, and how to do it in some really practical, tangible ways that you can start using right away in your next one-on-one. Now, I already shared what it is and a bit about why to use it, but let’s dig into that deeper. You should learn to coach your employees because it makes you a more effective manager. It improves your communication skills, increases your emotional intelligence, makes you a better listener, builds trust and understanding with your team. Aside from the benefit to your employee, learning to do this is only going to make you a better leader, and that’s only going to help you in your career. When you’re a better communicator and you listen more effectively and are more emotionally intelligent, that doesn’t just impact you at work. It has a ripple effect to your relationships outside of work as well. Because the way that you communicate and listen and feel about people, you’re taking that with you everywhere you go. And when you get better at that and you feel differently and you have this other skill set, the relationships that you have outside of work will improve.
Now, for your employees, it’s going to increase engagement, reduce attrition, win or turnover. It’s going to develop your employees more effectively and increase performance. So it’s really a win-win for you and for your employee. Plus, instead of just telling people what to do, you get to help them discover what they want to do, and then they’re going to have more buy-in and you get the results you want while fostering that trust and collaboration with your employees. So let’s get into the how. When you are starting the conversation with your employee, it should be in a one-on-one setting. You can use a one-on-one meeting. You don’t have to schedule it as a coaching session. The way to think about it is this. You are going to be asking some probing questions that are strategic and related to the issue at hand in a conversation you are already having. It’s an alternative way to handle the discussion. Instead of giving feedback or telling the employee what to do or what is right or wrong, or maybe asking a question about what they think and then it just doesn’t go anywhere, you’re going to have some specific questions you can ask.
Now, here’s a super simple example that impacts everyone. If you are having a one-on-one about goals, everyone has goal setting, goal discussions, and your employee asks you, What should my goals be? Instead of just telling them what their goals should be, you can turn it around and say something like, What do you think your goals should be? Or What goals do you think make the most sense this year? What you’re doing is you’re getting their thoughts first. You’re asking them questions that will bring out the options that they have in their mind that you can use as a conversation. With this goal discussion, let’s say the employee provides some options, but you think that there is more that they could consider. You could ask questions like, What else comes to mind? Or, What was your biggest challenge last year? Or, We are thinking about prioritizing X as a strategic goal for our department. How might you play a role in that? What role would you like to play? Now, as their manager, you may have input. After asking your employee what they think and flushing out some options, they may ask you, Well, how does this sound to you?
What do you think? You can give your input and say, This sounds good, or you could say, I like these, but I’m wondering if you would also be interested in working on and then you could insert a project or a year of growth that you’d like the employee to consider and then give them an opportunity to respond. Once you flush out the goals, then you want to bridge the gap. You can ask questions like, What do you think your next step would be? Or what do you think you’d have to do to get from where you are now to completing this goal? Do you see any obstacles that could get in your way? How would you solve for those obstacles? That is a really simple example that you could try for a common conversation around employee goals. Instead of answering the question specifically, you ask the employee what they think. You get curious about their perspective, validate their thoughts, ask more questions, brainstorm solutions, bridge the gap, and then create an action or next step. Let’s apply this to other types of conversations. So generally, the format of your conversation, and you might want to get a pen and paper and write this down or come back to it, generally, the format of your conversation is going to be one, have a chosen topic; two, ask questions to get perspective on the current problem or situation; three, brainstorm solutions using inquisitive questions; four, help the employee bridge the gap from the problem to the solution; and five, decide on the next action.
I’m going to give you some questions you can ask for each of these steps. This is like a framework you can use to give this a try in an upcoming one-on-one conversation that you have scheduled. Step number one, have a chosen topic. A question you might ask in your one-on-one is, What would you like to talk about today? Or, What challenges are you experiencing? Number two, get perspective. Some questions you could ask, What have you tried so far? What has gone well? What would you do differently? What do you see as the biggest obstacle or challenge? What do you think the real problem is? Number three, brainstorm solutions. Questions you could ask. What would you do if you could do anything? What do you see as your options? What is the best case scenario? What is the worst case scenario? What option do you feel most confident in? Number four, bridge the gap. Questions you can ask. At this point, you have the topic that you’ve talked about. You’ve got some perspective on it. And what the problem is? You’ve brainstormed some solutions. Now you’re going to bridge the gap from the problem to the solution.
What obstacles do you see coming up? How would you solve for those? What steps would you need to take to get there? Have you experienced this before? Who do you think could help with this? And then the fifth step, the final step is to get an action. What is the next thing that the employee is going to do? So some questions you could ask, what is the first step? What timeline sounds reasonable to you? How will you know you’re successful? Is there anything missing? Is there anything that we haven’t discussed that we should consider? Those questions are getting an action and next step for the employee, and also some of those questions were getting to a measurement. How will they know that they’re successful? Those are the five steps and some specific questions that you can use. The key is really to listen and then before jumping in to say what you think the employee should do, think of what question you can ask them instead, that is going to help them come up with their own solutions and their own action plan and their own steps. Now, if the five steps seem like a lot and you don’t remember what to do, maybe you write them all down, you don’t have your paper with you, or you just feel flustered, thinking about what are the good questions because this clearly is not an all-exhaustive list, and the questions you ask are going to be based on what the employee says.
It’s a give and take. Just remember that all you need to do is to listen and before making statements, ask questions. All right, now give it a try. Let me know what you think. This is a super simple approach that you can start using right now. Send me a message on LinkedIn, share your takeaways in a post, and tag me. I love seeing you applying what you learned here on the podcast. Have an amazing week.
The episode is over, but your next level is just beginning. If you’re ready to have the career that you really want, I invite you to schedule a coaching consultation to work with me where you will identify a career path to your next step, build your confidence to tackle any career challenge, make more money and work and stress less with my proven process. Head over to www.yourworthycareer.com to get started.