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Bad Bosses Bark Out Orders, Good Bosses Coach Their Teams

Bad Bosses Bark Out Orders, Good Bosses Coach Their Teams

The 80/20 rule roughly states that the 80% of the value of what you are doing will be derived from the final 20% of the effort you put in. If you apply this principle to the task of leadership, that final 20% falls to the role of being a Coach. As leaders, we can learn that first 80% from blogs and books until we reach the last 20% gray area, coaching.

Effective coaching can make the team grow fast through self-reflection

While a Leader focuses on the here and the present, the coach is concerned with focusing on the future (what do you need to do) and the past (what could you have done better).

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Think of a good sports coach – they will discuss strategies with their team before they take the field and talk to them on the bench, but when they are on the field, they are not running beside them telling them what to do, that’s the role of the on the field Leader. Some leaders struggle with moving from a hands-on leadership to a coaching model where they can no longer control and/or influence the outcome but instead must sit back and watch the employee’s action unfold for themselves and work with them, post actions to set them up for success the next time.

In working with employees there are three tenets where a Coach needs to focus on to be successful.

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A good coach listens before speaking

A coach needs to listen to their employee before they speak. The easiest way to get this conversation going is to ask them “What do you think?” and wait and wait and wait. A good coach will not respond for at least 10 – 15 seconds and if nothing is said will simply reiterate the question or rephrase it. But they will not offer up their opinions or ideas until they have heard from their employees and have had them establish the direction for which the communication will occur.

By letting your employees speak first, the coach has established a level in trust in putting the needs and thoughts of the employee’s before their own with the hope that the employee can be more forthcoming in their responses. By introducing the “awkward pauses” of silence the employee will begin to realize that the onus is on them to speak first before either can move forward.

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A good coach asks the right and necessary questions

There are no right questions – there is only the coach and the employee – trying to establish a relationship of trust from which they can continue to build on. In the role of coach, when working with an employee, I will always have a notebook (not laptop or phone) with me to record what they are saying so I can start to draw the lines of the cause of any issues they might be having and filter out the symptoms. Visually this helps me so I can see everything laid out but this also helps the employees I talk to for one reason – “they can see everything I am writing is about them and this piques their interest”. If I were to record everything they were saying on my laptop or phone it would have a very different affect – on my laptop, there is a barrier between us where they cannot see what I am doing and only assume that my furious typing is for them, with a phone, the device is so small and close to my face, for all they know I could be playing a game.

If you don’t have a notebook, use a markerboard, this is another great tool that not only let’s you visualize the issues and determine the questions you need to ask and the cues you need to prompt for but let’s the employees see the pattern in their words to perhaps start asking their own questions.

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A good coach becomes the guide for others

The evolution of leadership is that of a guide. A guide knows the lay of the land and has a good idea of what should be done but they are there in a supporting role, they are there to bring the group back on track should they stray, they are not there to lead the way and do it all. Think back to the last time you had a guide on a trip – did they tell you everywhere you needed to go, where to step, what do to and what to eat? No, they gave you suggestions on directions, steered you when you veered off the path a little too far (but giving you room to explore) and only jumped in when you were about to eat something poisonous.

The same applies to a coach and employee relationship. The coach is there as a guide to help insulate the employee from catastrophic failure while letting the employee wander and try new ideas that could lead to some level of success or failure.

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A good coach knows when to step back and urge an employee to give their idea a whirl, protecting them from the fall.

If you’re in a coaching relationship, either as the employee or the coach, and these principles are not in place, you will have a hard time establishing the level of foundation and trust necessary to help your employees grow. It’s from this foundation, this navigation of the grey areas that the really great coaches thrive in and turn good employees great. If done properly, the success of this relationship will be realized when the employee being coached has grown into a leader able to recognize that their success as a leader and as their team will not be measured by their overall deliverable strategy but by their ability to coach their employees through that final 20%.

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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