Recently I was reading the white paper “Bringing Science to the Art of Coaching.” Authors Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett look at a couple of key questions to explore while examining what research says about the effectiveness of coaching. Consistently, the data shows strong correlations between a leader’s coaching effectiveness and measures of employee commitment and engagement.
But that’s not all. Leaders who use coaching skills are more likely to retain their key people as well as have more productive teams. This in turn generally translates into a positive effect on the organization’s bottom line. When the leader uses a coach approach to foster direct reports’ development, everyone benefits.
One of the key areas that Zenger and Stinnett focus on is conversation, which they look at from two aspects:
- What should we talk about?
- How was that for you?
Both of these questions get at a major source of problems when managers and direct reports have one-on-one conversations. First, rarely are the conversations about a topic the direct report wants to discuss. (Most managers discuss what is important to them as a leader and assume that it is also of value to the team member.) Second, leaders rarely ask for feedback after the conversation to see if it met the needs of the direct report. As a result, one-on-one meetings are hardly ever as effective as they could be.
The best coaches—and the best leaders—know that the greatest amount of personal change occurs when it is a partnership. From a leader’s perspective this means talking less and listening more. It also means learning how to ask effective coaching questions and how to be in service of their people’s ongoing development.
Specifically, Zenger and Stinnett recommend that leaders use a Coaching Topic Checklist as a tool for structuring one-on-one conversations. Their approach is to have the direct report choose from a series of possible topics ranging from, “The progress I am making in my career,” to “How I could contribute more to the organization,” and even more tactical like, “How to handle a specific challenge.”
Through it all, they suggest leaders consider a coaching mind-set, which promotes discovery and growth and frequent stops to check in for feedback on effectiveness.
Many people would say that their best managers were those who used a coach approach to partner with them in achieving their goals. Do you currently use a coach approach when interacting with your people? If not, could it be time to learn? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
About the Author
Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.