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The Coach Approach: How Winning Managers Help Employees

CoachCelebrating-282x300Time for a short story: When I was a recreation center manager, one of my employees — let’s call her Lisa — had earned her degree and all her required certifications. Delighted to work in her chosen field, she was hired to be in charge of the rec center when I wasn’t on the premises.

She was a brand new but fully educated professional. However, it soon became clear Lisa wasn’t doing her job well. Now, put yourself in my shoes at the time: I compiled a list of all the things Lisa had done wrong. Should I use her 90-day review to dump the list on her? Or should I redirect her actions without dampening her enthusiasm — in other words, be a coach rather than a hard-nosed, authoritarian boss?

Today, I can tell you that the “coach approach” worked well. Over breakfast, Lisa and I discussed her future success in her current job. By developing a checklist of skills she needed to improve, spelling out examples of problems that had occurred and discussing how she could solve those problems proactively, we came to a better understanding of how to work together for the good of the facility and our professional relationship.

At our meeting, Lisa began to see what skills she needed to be successful, and she soon embraced the ideas we discussed. She came away from that first 90-day review knowing her manager (me) wanted her to succeed. And I felt like a coach whose protégé had just won an important race. A few years later, Lisa was promoted to facility manager.

And everyone lived happily ever after…

Do you help your employees succeed?

Too many so-called leaders and managers fail to energize their people and encourage them to build the career of their dreams. In the words of Dr. Lloyd Lewan, chairman of Lewan Technology (Colorado’s largest provider of office technology), employees want you to “turn me on, keep me focused and treat me right.”

Managers and leaders who overlook those requirements fail in part because they don’t make it clear what they expect and don’t help their employees develop an attitude of professionalism that will serve them well throughout their careers.

Do you make time to tell those valuable people you manage what their goals should be? Do you ask for their input, their ideas and their feedback?

How will you ever create an open environment? When will you find time to build relationships with someone new to your group?

Start simply.

Decide what one thing you can do today to clarify expectations for each person you manage, and put each expectation in writing. Then look at your organization’s mission statement — bet you haven’t done that in awhile. Do your department’s activities line up with each of the stated purposes?

To be clear on what’s expected, outline specific tasks and behaviors. Then inform your employees they will be evaluated on those tasks and behaviors. Tell them your precise expectations and why they should adhere to them. Doing this sets your employees up for success rather than failure.

A coach’s checklist.

Coaching your employees and leading them toward enhanced professionalism all starts with your own professionalism. Are you setting a shining example? Keep the following 15 reminders in front of you at all times:

  1. Set priorities daily. What activities will you do today that will have the greatest impact?
  2. When someone confides in you, keep it between you and that person. Confidentiality builds trust.
  3. Give employees opportunities to develop new skills that can replace bad habits. Be developmental, not punitive.
  4. Moaners and complainers don’t make powerful role models. Show support for others in your organization. Be a positive role model as a team player.
  5. Things can still get done when others do not do it your way. Be flexible.
  6. Allow people to fail gracefully and learn from their mistakes. Ask “What did you learn?” and encourage a discussion. The dialog can be more effective than a lecture.
  7. The faster you forgive yourself for making a mistake and learning from it, the less damage it will do. Take ownership of your mistakes. Be the first say, “I messed up. This is what I did, this what I learned and this is how I will handle the situation in the future.”
  8. Sleep on big decisions. Re-read your email before you send it. You leave a footprint on every document.
  9. Praise in public, counsel in private. If a boss berates his or her workers in front of customers or fans, how motivated will they be to return to work the next day?
  10. Dress professionally. You must look like a successful leader before others treat you that way.
  11. If you don’t like your job, leave it. Because someone else wants it.
  12. Ask employees their opinions; don’t just tell them what to do. You will enjoy the success that comes from helping and watching them grow.
  13. The more you show your people you care about them and connect with them as human beings, the more successful they will make you.
  14. Everybody knows who’s getting things done. The less credit you try to grab for yourself, the more you are likely to receive it.
  15. Listen more than talk. People speak the loudest when they listen the most.

Managers and supervisors falter because they fail to make a difference in the lives they touch. Use the coach approach by setting clear goals and helping employees achieve them. Let your employees shine. And when they do, their brilliance reflects on you.

(Photo by EAWB via flickr)

About Ruby Newell-Legner

As a Fan Experience Expert, Ruby helps leaders in sports, leisure and entertainment build strong teams between front line staff and management, and make exceptional customer service a way of life. She has consulted with and designed customized training programs for more than 60 sports and entertainment venues, 80 leisure facilities and 29 professional sports teams. From the only 7 Star Hotel in the world to Convention Centers, from Denver to Dubai, Ruby brings unprecedented expertise and insight on how to create a service culture that motivates employees and promotes customer loyalty and retention.

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