HONING THE CRAFT
Coachability: How to Reach Goals Faster and Better
One of the quickest and most effective ways for a middle manager to make an impact on the organization is through coaching; unfortunately, it is an often underutilized tool. Coaching is different from advising, preaching, counseling, and persuading because the last four are all done from the viewpoint of and for the person offering it. Coaching is the opposite. A coach’s focus is on the recipient’s goals and possibilities. High-impact middle managers have a genuine interest in knowing how to help employees be successful, and they themselves are also coachable individuals who are receptive to change and always ready to improve.
Managers who are highly coachable:
* are not defensive when challenged or offered an alternative view.
* welcome feedback and ideas for improvement.
* ask for coaching.
* consider and use ideas offered by others.
* seek training and development in the form of reading, classes, new assignments, and coaching from others.
* have a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses.
* handle failures and setbacks with grace.
Managers who are uncoachable, on the other hand:
* do not listen to ideas offered by others.
* staunchly defend current ideas and approaches.
* believe they must do things on their own and that asking for input is a sign of weaknesses.
* appear to be unreceptive or not interested in coaching.
* do not engage in conversations about development with their manager. In addition, they view suggestions that they should develop new skills as a criticism.
* can be dismissive of others.
Techniques for Improving Coachability
Middle Managers who need to improve their coachability should keep the following in mind:
* Coachability starts with a mindset. When managers realize they are being uncoachable, they should pause, take a deep breath, and decide to let go of the feelings or resistance and be more open.
* Ask more open-ended questions to glean more information about projects and processes.
* Ask follow-up questions to understand ideas and suggestions fully.
* Take the initiative to ask for input on one problem, idea, or topic each day.
* Resist the urge to defend themselves or argue why an idea will not work. They should focus on the desired outcome, not being right.
* Schedule brainstorming and problem-solving meetings during the time of day or week that they are most coachable.
Using Coachability to Attract a Breakthrough
Some middle managers are like sponges, happily soaking in new information. More often than not, however, preconceived notions, fears, and the ego shut out the opportunities for change that these managers seek. Those who are eager to attract a breakthrough might want to try the following practices.
* Let peers, managers, and employees know about the most important or interesting topics or challenges that you are working on.
* Call a meeting to brainstorm new ideas and novel suggestions.
* Seek nontraditional avenues of information and ideas.
* Do not be shy. Call or email thinkers and researchers in the field and ask for their perspectives.
* Focus on defending the ideal desired outcome and asking questions about what conditions are needed to support this outcome.
* Take (and be fully engaged in) a course on the subject.
* Make a request that you would normally consider unreasonable. It does not hurt to ask, and it may even work. Most middle managers are so conservative about what they ask that their unreasonable requests are not likely to be that unreasonable.
* Adopt a “this shall be” mindset. There seems to be some legitimacy to the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, so managers might as well have this phenomenon work in their favor.
* If important enough, ask an outside facilitator to lead a group of people through a work session to brainstorm ideas, approaches, barriers, and desired outcomes.
* Benchmark other admired and respected companies that perform this particular task or process extremely well.