To conduct a good coaching session, you need to (1) establish a purpose, (2) establish ground rules, (3) keep focused, (4) avoid monologues, (5) speak clearly and simply, and (6) stay open to new ideas. Let’s look more closely at each of these six elements of a good coaching session.
Establish Ground Rules
As with any meeting, you and the employee need to have a common understanding of certain factors. The most important are time and roles.
You’ll want to keep focused on the reason for the employee’s visit, of course. But there’s more involved in keeping focused during the meeting. Here are a few guidelines:
• Avoid making “noise”—anything that distracts from the atmosphere. As the old song goes, “Every little movement has a meaning all its own.” Whatever you do should contribute to the discussion and support your connection with the employee.
• Don’t look at your computer. Mot even once. Turn off the monitor. That will get rid of the temptation to look—and it conveys a clear message to the employee. Don’t touch your papers. Again, if you might be tempted, set all papers aside on your desk as soon as you welcome your visitor. One small action can reduce the temptation and show respect and interest.
• Don’t fiddle. Be aware of any nervous habits you might have and try to fight them.
• Don’t answer the telephone. With secretaries, answering machines, and voicemail, the only reason to answer that call is curiosity—which suggests that an unknown caller is more important than a known employee. Always focus on our visitor.
Don’t Give a Lecture; Have a Conversation
Don’t launch into a monolog. If you’re coaching effectively, your employee should probably do most of the talking. That’s true no matter which one of you initiates the session. You’re the coach and the employee is the player who can benefit from your guidance. So, it’s generally better for the player to act and the coach to react.
Use words that form bridges rather than raise barriers. Whether you’re coaching an employee or meeting with other managers or whether you’re talking with the man who scrubs the toilets or the woman who chairs the Board of Directors, these recommendations will help you communicate more effectively:
• Use the simplest, most common terms. Reject terms like “nonfunctional superannuated language equivalents.
• Stow the jargon. “Suicide squeeze” doesn’t mean anything to someone who isn’t a baseball fan.
• Be specific. Which sentence communicates more effectively, “I’m concerned because you’ve come to work late several times recently” or “Your on-site punctuality modality leaves something to be desired”? Use the known to explain the unknown. You don’t have to be an English major to use metaphor and simile effectively. When you’re speaking about something new and/or complex, compare it to something that’s familiar to the employee
Stay Open to New Ideas
If you talk about “your” idea and “her” idea, you’ve created two huge obstacles to finding a solution to the problem. You’ve immediately limited the discussion to two possibilities, closing the door on a compromise or on a third approach. So, keep the discussion open. Try to disconnect the idea from the person suggesting the idea, so you both feel free to comment, criticize, or modify.
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