Want more productivity? Don’t tell your staff what to do, just coach (#donttelljustcoach)


When it comes to raising productivity, emphasis might be placed on investment in technology, systems and/or processes. Of course, these are important, but investment in people, their relationships with their managers, and their level of engagement with the business can (unfortunately) be overlooked.

Investing time in the right conversations with your staff will raise their productivity. It will give them a greater sense of responsibility, ownership and connection with the goals and mission of the organisation that you are all part of.

I am not referring to conversations which simply allow you as manager to provide all of the answers to their questions. In your position of authority, you may think that this is your job, but it’s not.

I am talking about dialog, 2-way conversations in which you give them the opportunity to work things out for themselves. But to make the conversation work, you as manager must give them the opportunity to talk, and then, you must learn to be quiet and listen. People are creative if you give them the opportunity. They want to be heard, they want greater autonomy, they want to develop their skill mastery, and they want to belong.

So, how do you make those conversations happen?

In other words, how do you as manager, coach your staff to achieve higher levels of performance and productivity?

Three key skills involved here; rapport, listening, and questioning. You will also benefit from having some structure to the conversation, for example by using the GROW model.

Rapport: This is what establishes trust in the relationship with your staff, and you build it by paying attention

  • To what they say, the words they use, their style of communicating.
  • To how they say it, their tone, speed, assertiveness, confidence.
  • To their body language which probably tells you a lot more about what they are thinking, which is often different from what they are saying.

Listening: This really shows that you are paying attention because you are listening to what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for you. You develop empathy and understanding of their situation, their world. You notice the important statements and reflect their meaning. You also notice what they are not saying. And in turn you begin to help them to become more aware of what they are thinking and what might be blocking their progress.

Questioning: Because you have paid attention and listened, you can now ask the right questions.

  • To explore an issue in greater depth, you ask open questions, using the key words: WHAT, WHEN, HOW, WHO, WHERE, why. Take care with the “why” questions; you might get a defensive response rather than a constructive one.
  • Open questions generate content and information. It’s hard to answer an open question with a “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”.
  • To work towards closure, you could ask more closed questions, beginning with “do you….?”, “have you…..?” etc.

I’ll say more about the GROW model in my next post, but basically it’s a set of steps which clarify;

  • Goal: What exactly is being delivered, how is it measured, when is it going to be completed?
  • Reality: How is the gap between now and the future goal state, what stands in the way in terms of skills, resources, budget, environment etc?
  • Options: What creative ideas will bring the goal into fruition, what could be done to achieve it?
  • Way forward: What will be committed to, what will happen by when, and what level of commitment is being assured, and how will the accountability happen?

Whenever I teach managers these basic coaching skills, the question which always comes up is: “Isn’t it just quicker and more efficient to tell them the answers?” And my answer is always the same; it depends upon whether or not you are prepared to make the investment in empowering your staff, so that you don’t need to know the answers. Making that investment pays off by knowing that results are being delivered, because your team is clear on WHAT they need to do to meet your expectations, and HOW to get it done with less of your own direct involvement.

Through my career at HP (now HP Enterprise), I had the privilege of working for some truly great managers.   They had the gift of connecting with me so that they could understand me, motivate me, trust me and support me. They made very clear what they wanted, and set out objectives and measures, but they didn’t insist on telling me how to do my job. And yet they seemed to make it so easy when they inspired me to deliver my best work, to learn, to develop, and to grow my engineering contribution. I don’t recall them ever using the term “coaching”, but that’s what they did. They did it with ease, and it worked.

My next workshop, Coaching Others to Be Their Best, provides the opportunity to learn and practice these key skills of coaching. You can meet other like-minded professionals too, share experience, and learn from each other in a safe and fun environment.

Please join me at The Watershed in Bristol on 24th March, 9am to 1pm.

Check out the hash tag #donttelljustcoach on Twitter for short tips, and then book here or directly from my website events page. http://bit.ly/1OwHgPn