"The manager role is to reach inside each employee and release his unique talents into performance. The role is best played one employee at a time: one manager asking questions of, listening to, and working with one employee…In times of great change it is this role that makes the company robust …."
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
First, Break All the Rules
Block out Time
Arrange for a one-two hour block of time each month with each person who reports to you. The meeting is confidential, “sacred time,” not to be disturbed, put off (except for emergency situations) or missed. It is held in private, comfortable surroundings where the likelihood of distraction or interruption is minimal.
The meeting belongs primarily to the person being coached, not to the coach. The person coached is asked to forward an agenda a day or so in advance of 4 – 8 items. As the supervisor/coach, you may bring issues, too, but those should be covered after working through the employee’s agenda.
The meeting should be an open forum to discuss any work project of the person being coached, the overall objectives of the organization, relationships at work—including the relationship with you, or other organizational and personal/professional issues – literally anything the employee wants to bring up. During the meeting the person coached has an opportunity to report on and self-assess how the work is going, gain recognition for successes and supportive advice when surfacing obstacles or dilemmas; try out new ideas or behaviors and develop solutions to problems in a safe environment. The only restriction is to ensure that the conversation is not too quick or technically focused. The goal is to address larger patterns of job performance and the felt needs of the associate.
Sharing the Podium
In general, it’s a good idea to speak much less than the associate. Speaking 20% of the time can feel like over 50% of the time for the associate.
Spend the entire amount of time available. Slow down to really learn what the employee is working on – and what his or her experiences have been. Share your own stories. Use open-ended questions to facilitate your inquiries, especially ones that help get at the associate’s beliefs, perceptions, and feelings, not just intellect.
Closing the Meeting
Close the one-on-one session with a list of follow-up or action items that both of you may need to attend to during the next month. Be sure to review these as part of the next session, providing a sense of continuity about the coaching process. Use a simple note-taking format that includes who agreed to do what by when. These notes are never secret.