Thirty years ago, you went to work, did your job, and got paid. That was all that you expected, and that is all that your employer offered. But over time, the employer-employee relationship has changed.
Today, employees want more than just a paycheck. They want continual learning. They want challenge. They want growth. And they want a manager who will work with them to achieve their goals. The manager’s role has evolved from that of a “boss” to that of a leader, and a coach.
So what does that mean for you, as a manager? While some employees are willing and able to speak up and let you know that they want more or different challenges and responsibility, not all of them will. As a manager, coaching each of your employees can help identify where each of them are today, and where they want to be tomorrow. It’s an ongoing discussion, rather than a year-end performance review event. And it’s an important part of employee engagement and satisfaction.
What does Employee Development Coaching look like?
How do you coach an employee for development? It looks different for each employee, but it all starts with identifying what the employee wants. What are their goals or interests? Do they want to expand their knowledge in a particular area? Do they want to obtain new skills? Are they ready to take on more responsibility? Do they want to pursue a promotion?
Coaching involves talking to the employee, and asking questions to help him or her clarify what he or she really wants. For example, if Jane tells you she really enjoys doing research, help her to explore how to bring more research opportunities into her job. Or, if that isn’t practical in her current role, perhaps she is interested in obtaining new skills or education to change jobs.
Another example might be when Colleen says she wants to move up, but promotional opportunities just don’t exist in the near future. Talk with her about lateral learning opportunities. How can she continue to grow professionally, taking on new skills or responsibilities as a professional, even though a promotion really isn’t an option right now?
Break it Down
Once the employee is able to clarify their goals, they may need some help in putting them into action. A friend once told me she wanted to go back to school to get her master’s degree. That’s great, but it’s a really big goal. Will it be an online program or on-site? What school? What specific program? How will she pay for it? What will be the impact on her family? What will be the impact on her job?
When faced with a large goal, it helps to ask “What is the first step?” Help the employee break the goal down into manageable pieces and they are more likely to stay on the path. As each step is taken, the employee will feel successful, and motivated to take the next step. And before she knows it, she’ll be halfway to graduation, with her goal in sight.
So, who outlines the steps? The employee. This isn’t about the manager telling the employee what to do. It’s about asking the right questions, and helping the employee figure out their own path.
What questions should the Coach ask?
Coaching for Development might include questions like these:
What is your goal?
What is the first step?
What obstacles are in your way?
What resources can I help you obtain?
Who do you need to talk to/work with/get on board?
What do you need from me?
What are you going to do first, and by when?
As a manager, you may be tempted to give advice. There may be times when that is appropriate, but this is really about the employee coming up with their own plan, and holding him or herself accountable. Offer your support and encouragement, but keep the advice to a minimum.
Seasoned employees need development too.
Your more seasoned employees may tell you they are not interested in promotion, new skills, or added responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean that development discussions aren’t necessary. The world is constantly changing; your clients’ needs are constantly changing; your company is constantly changing. How will they keep up with those changes? What struggles do they have? Where might they benefit from additional training/education/resources? Or, could this employee train others? None of us can just keep doing what we’ve always done, or we risk being passed by and becoming obsolete. Urge all of your employees to stretch, even if just a little bit.
Coaching for development helps your employees take ownership of their own growth, and helps them move toward their goals. Through regular discussions, and thoughtful questions, you’ll help your employees to blossom, realizing their full talents and abilities. And you’ll be taking your own leadership to a new level, adding Coaching skills to your own list of talents.
To learn more, sign up for our upcoming webinar: Launching into Leadership - The 4 Traits of an Inspired Leader