Coaching & Mentoring For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Organizations thrive when employees are given the opportunity and supported to do their best work. To inspire and build commitment from your employees, you, as a manager, need to fully commit to prioritizing coaching and mentoring as part of your job — not something you intend to do or as time allows. This Cheat Sheet helps you get started.

Building commitment by following the five pillars

When coaching your employees, commit to the consistent practice of making the time to have meaningful dialog with them and help them succeed on their own by following the five pillars of commitment: focus, involvement, development, gratitude, and accountability.

These five pillars or principles help shape employees who are committed, motivated, and engaged in their work. As a coach and mentor, you can continue to revisit whether you’re working with your employee to support these pillars.

It’s not solely the responsibility of the employee or you as their manager to make sure they’re followed. Coaching and mentoring is a collaborative activity that requires both the manager and employee’s commitment to work.

When the focus pillar is strong, employees know what’s important, what’s expected, and what to accomplish. As manager, you can play an important role by working with employees to do the following:

  • Set goals and performance plans.
  • Define results expected when you delegate an assignment.
  • Create plans to spur employee development.
  • Create development goals to improve skills to help the employee meet performance expectations and grow in their careers.
  • Mentor by sharing wisdom and insights that help focus the employees on the right actions and behaviors.
  • Set parameters that the employee is to work within when delegating an assignment.
  • Define action items to accomplish for the next status review meeting.
  • Discuss and set priorities so the employee is focusing on the best use of their time
  • Share the importance of career self-reliance to your employees.
  • Help employees find purpose in their work by clarifying how they contribute to the overall success of the team and company.

Ask, don't tell, when coaching employees

Great questions drive the best coaching sessions because the focus of your conversations is centered on what the employee thinks, not what you say.

Questions make people stop and reflect. They force people to look inside for answers. They engage problem-solving and creative skills. You can’t use questions enough in coaching employees.

Remember to make them open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no response (Are you late for the meeting versus Why are you late for the meeting?)

These questions are good examples of open-ended questions that help fuel independent problem solving the next time you are reviewing progress on a project:

  • What questions have you asked yourself?
  • If I wasn’t around, how would you solve it?
  • What do you think is the issue?
  • What’s the next logical step?
  • Where can you get answers?
  • What have you tried?
  • What haven’t you tried (fill in the blank)?
  • What’s the cost/benefit analysis of your options?
  • What are your concerns?
  • What’s the worst thing could happen?
  • Are there other models or examples that can help you decide?
  • What are the primary criteria you are using to make your decision?
  • In a perfect world, what would the outcome be?
  • How do your options impact other people?
  • Who else do you need to consult with?
  • What’s your hesitation in making a decision?
  • What don’t you know that you need to find an answer to?
  • How can I help?

Understanding the ROI when delegating

What do you gain when you learn to apply this coaching tool of delegating? Here is what managers who have done so report:

  • Increased productivity: Ultimately this is the main reason you delegate. It’s about maximizing the human resources you have in your group to the fullest. The more others can get work done, the greater the productivity you see.
  • Staff development: In many cases, the assignments and responsibilities you delegate provide your staff members opportunity for growth. As they gain success in them, their skills and abilities strengthen. Competence — and often confidence and motivation — grows.
  • More assistance and coverage: Delegating often serves as a useful mechanism for filling holes. Sometimes you’re vulnerable because you’re the only one who can do a function that affects day-to-day operations, or one of your staff is that key solo performer. Delegating to utilize more people in the operations gets you more help and better coverage in return.
  • Good creativity and solutions: Delegating assignments that allows staff members to have autonomy sometimes leads to more and better ideas from your group. Better solutions are often produced as the employee is able to give more attention to the problem at hand. In fact, in some cases, you’re tapping into expertise that’s better equipped to handle certain issues than you are. That’s why you hired them in the first place!
  • Better use of your time: By shifting some of the day-to-day operational work to staff to handle, your attention and time get to shift elsewhere — to the big-picture stuff. You can spend more time with key people you need to be in contact with and to take on more leadership in addressing problems or moving initiatives forward. This better use of your time elevates you to become the leader that others need you to be.
  • Less stress for you: This benefit often comes as a result of the other benefits you gain from your delegating efforts. When you’re increasing productivity, putting your time to better use, and maximizing and developing your resources, you’re no longer the one person who has to handle and worry about most of what goes on in your group.

Behaviors to avoid in coaching and mentoring

Applying the tools of coaching is an ongoing learning process. It requires hard work, a desire to grow, and self-awareness of your own behaviors.

Occasionally, managers exhibit certain habits or behaviors that detract from their ability to effectively coach their employees. Following, are such habits or behaviors to avoid.

You can use these habits as a checklist of behaviors to avoid as you look to develop your coaching skills. You can also use them as a tool for self-assessment, recognizing what habits you need to change.

Talking too much, listening too little

Coaching works best through two-way conversation. The more you talk, the less you get this vital two-way communication. The more you talk, the less involved your employees become — and often the less they desire to interact with you.

When you listen, you find out what your employees need. Listening helps you gain insights and understand where people are coming from. It also serves to motivate people because it shows that you care.

Being hands-off in your style

A hands-off approach is often referred to as a laissez-faire style of management. While being hands-off means that you’re not a micromanager — and that’s good — this style also means that you’re uninvolved with your employees.

Your guidance, direction, and support are lacking. When you take a hands-off approach as your regular management style, everyone functions on their own.

As a result, people aren’t developed or challenged. Goals aren’t set nor are issues addressed. This style sets an atmosphere in which chaos can reign or status quo can live comfortably. Progress, increased productivity, and employee motivation — all of which are positively impacted by coaching — are also left alone.

Hovering around too much

This habit is the opposite of being hands-off. When hovering, you don’t leave your staff alone; instead, you nag them. You check up on every little thing they’re doing. You keep an eye on every move they make.

Coaching is about spending quality time with your staff so they can perform for themselves. Then it’s about letting them perform and meeting back later to review results.

Hovering over people’s shoulders decreases the likelihood that your coaching will be received with any credibility. You may need to lighten up and get out of the way.

Not following through and following up

Following through is doing what you said you’d do. It’s taking action to carry out the commitments you make. Following up is the checking back later to see what has happened or to review progress that has been made. When coaching, these two behaviors go hand-in-hand.

As a coach, you often set follow-up meetings in order to monitor progress with your staff members, and then you need to follow through and actually have such meetings.

You also need to follow through on your end of the deal, taking the steps you said you would take to help support the employee’s performance. Not doing so on both counts often frustrates employees, leaves issues lingering, and affects your credibility as an effective manager.

Focusing on methods rather than results

When managers focus on methods, they tend to get into a lot of discussions (if not heated debates) with their employees about how tasks and assignments should be done. The debates go back and forth over which is the right way to do the job.

The focus is not on the outcomes or results needed. Managers with this habit overlook that jobs can be done in different ways. Pushing people to do work in certain ways often stifles creativity and demotivates performance. Focusing on results gives people a target to shoot for and a standard by which to measure performance.

Managing everyone the same way

Many managers suffer from the habit of working with everyone in their group the same way. It works for some but not for others. Such a habit renders managers inflexible: They aren’t able to tailor their efforts of guidance and support to fit individual needs.

This takes away from their ability to manage highly experienced employees to inexperienced ones and of dealing with the variety of strengths and weaknesses people bring to their job. People aren’t all the same. Coaching tunes into individuals.

Failing to get to know your employees or becoming their friends

These two extremes of manager behavior deal with the relationship side of the coaching role. One of the aims of coaching is to build good working relationships with your staff, which involves getting to know something about your employees as people.

Some managers show little skill and/or great discomfort in talking with the people in their groups. They tend to focus strictly on business and then keep their distance. As a result, their staff often has little connection with them, and this greatly limits managers’ abilities to motivate and exert personal influence.

The other side of the coin are the managers who know their people too well. They build friendships with work to be seen as just another member of the team instead of the boss. Although being seen as part of the team is healthy, you risk not being taken seriously when you want to set direction and give people constructive feedback on their performance.

Attending to tasks rather than goals

Doer managers have the habit of getting stuck in the day-to-day affairs and tasks at hand. They aren’t able to look ahead at what truly needs to get accomplished — the goals. If they have goals, they’re written as a requirement but then tossed aside, and their attention goes back to the tasks of the moment. Or the goals are set as if they’re an extra-credit project — nice to do if you can find the time, but they don’t tie into real performance.

As a result of this habit, managers aren’t able to set any direction or effect much significant change. They look to today and aren’t able to chart a path to the future with their employees.

Failing to bring issues to closure

Managers display this habit in a few different ways:

  • They discuss and discuss issues but take no action to move anything forward.
  • They have a hard time making decisions and showing any sign of
  • They seek employee input on problems but don’t do anything with it.

As issues linger on and the lack of progress becomes the norm, employees lose faith that anything positive is going to happen. They get tired of “all talk, no action.”

Manager credibility goes down because of this passive behavior. Coaching requires assertiveness to be effective — you have to act and conduct yourself in a positive and direct way, not shying away from taking action when it’s needed.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Leo MacLeod is a national expert on leadership development and succession planning and the owner of Training/Coaching/Pie, where he has guided thousands of new leaders. He is the author of From the Ground Up: Stories and Lessons from Architects and Engineers Who Learned to Be Leaders. Marty Brounstein, was a dynamic speaker and management consultant, and author of the first edition of Coaching & Mentoring For Dummies.

This article can be found in the category: