A coaching client mentioned recently that she had a person on her team taking more initiative and going beyond the authority of her position. My client wondered if she should fire the person and perhaps put someone a little less aggressive in the role. My response was to ask whether you would rather have someone who acts like an owner or a hired hand? Would you rather spend your time pushing someone forward or slowing someone down? What this leader had uncovered was the coaching moment.
Recognizing the Coaching Moment
Many leaders have an expectation in their minds about what the people on their team should be able to do and how they should act. When the team members come up short of this expectation or disappoint, the leader begins to think about replacing versus coaching the person through the deficiency. I call this the Coaching Moment, and as a leader, you need to have your antennae up and your spidey-sense working to look for those moments where you can make a big difference in the life and performance of the people on your team.
Increasing the Capabilities on Your Team
Liz Wiseman, in her great research-based book, Multipliers, says that leaders can act in ways that will either multiply or diminish the capabilities of the people on his or her team. Being able to recognize the coaching moment is a great way to multiply the capabilities. When you take the initiative to coach in the moment versus criticize, judge, rescue, or protect, you open the door to growth and productivity for your teammates.
5 Traits of Coaching Moment Leaders
If you want to learn to recognize and seize the coaching moment with your team, consider these five traits:
- Express empathy versus sympathy. If you genuinely want to see your teammates grow and develop, you need to put yourself in their shoes, not feel sorry for them and their inefficiencies. Empathy builds trust.
- Use questions versus statements to help affect their thinking. If you tell someone what to do, they are merely executing your actions. Instead, use questions to get them thinking, so they develop their own actions. Once you can see how they think, all kinds of coaching doors will open.
- Promote a growth mindset versus allowing a fixed mindset. Growth mindset leaders believe everyone can grow and learn. Abilities are not fixed; abilities can grow, and performance can improve. If you or the people on your team have a fixed mindset, there is very little either of you can do to improve the situation.
- Focus on relationship more than task. What’s your top priority? That the tasks get done or that the people grow and improve as the task gets done? It’s easy to focus so much on the work that needs to be done that we can miss the opportunity to grow our people as the work gets done.
- Establish a culture of improving versus proving. If the people on your team are trying to prove their intelligence and worth, they will not take risks and try new things. When your culture embraces improving, everything can be viewed as a learning experience. Failures or setbacks become part of the lesson, and everyone ends up better for it.
My coaching client decided that since the person she felt challenged by was a good culture fit and exhibited values consistent with the organization, it was indeed a coaching moment. Of course, there will be times when someone is not a good fit for your organization, but before you move too quickly to replace someone, ask yourself if this is a coaching moment where I can grow the skills and abilities of my team.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.