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Why Coaching Matters at Work (and 4 Coaching Questions You Should Use)

Guidance is more powerful than instruction if you want outsized results. Because that is the path to ownership of tasks and mission.

Think about it.

Traditional management and collaboration has a tendency to over focus on what is being done and overlooking things that can be crucial to success.

We look at work breakdowns and procedures. Then we try to optimize the process.

It all gets very clinical quickly. Which has a tendency to dehumanize things.

We get all caught up in boxes and diagrams and flows, when maybe we should focus more on the intangibles and the people doing the work.

This includes you and me too.

Maybe you are a leader or manager. You might have people reporting to you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need guidance too.

Look, soon enough the robots will take over and read the TPS reports for you. And they will keep the other robots in line.

Let’s not go down that path now. Because your work is more important than that.

And you need to double-down on the human element rather than looking for better ways to systematize every last detail.

That’s how you and everyone around you adds value. It’s the secret sauce to success.

I have been a productivity chaser for a long time. It plays to my strengths in thinking in systems. I love to optimize things.

If I can make my work, my projects, and my teams fully optimized, we can do wonderful things. We can be super efficient and get more work done.

It’s the best way to increase value and decrease costs.

Until I realized that it can be a losing strategy in the long term.

Keeping our heads in the sand of optimization can cause us to miss big picture opportunities. It can make us more resistant to change.

It can be kind of a miserable way to work, too. Because it can limit your growth and bypass opportunities for creativity and critical thinking.

What is coaching in the workplace?

Coaching is about developing. That’s what makes it so powerful.

It may included detailed instructions at times, but the approach is all about helping people cultivate their commitment to themselves and their work.

If you help equip people with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to develop, you can help them grow new capabilities.

This is one of the hardest parts of being a manager. A lot of people have trouble delegating without micromanaging. Because they don’t trust that there will be a full transfer of ownership of the task or responsibility.

But if you cultivate that ownership through coaching, you will have much better results.

At the same time, you need to recognize that you need guidance too.

Coaching in the workplace is about reaching for breakthrough performance by people involving themselves in a process of change aimed at continuously growing their impact on results.

How to bring coaching into conversations

You don’t need to get a whistle and a whiteboard to start coaching. In fact, you don’t have to make huge changes to the way you work.

A great way to implement more coaching is to simply tweak your conversations. Most importantly, shift the questions you ask.

Here are some great questions that can foster coaching conversations.

1. What is going well for you this week? Any “wins”?

Celebrating is a great way to start a conversation. It sets a positive tone. This question also opens up pathways to a larger conversation because it is open ended. Listen to what the other person thinks is valuable and worth acknowledging. That’s a key insight into their motivations and world view.

2. Are you running into any roadblocks?

This can help to uncover problems or potential problem areas. It also opens up the conversation naturally to problem solving. Which is something you can do together. You can help guide the person’s thinking about what they might do to address the issue while they figure out the best way to proceed.

3. What are some things you see going on around you, good or bad?

This can help promote a little broader perspective and provide an opportunity for someone to share good news or a concern that isn’t directly their responsibility. Leaders have good peripheral vision and situational awareness. This line of questioning helps cultivate a leadership mindset and bigger picture thinking. Plus, whatever is bubbling up around them is going to affect them at some point. You can help the person start thinking more strategically about that.

4. Is there something I might be doing to help or hinder things?

Asking for feedback yourself is a great way to, well, get important feedback. But it also shows that coaching and guidance flows in all directions. It shows that you value coaching because you want to be coached too.

What makes a good coach?

If you think back to your favorite teachers, they probably weren’t the ones who had the best worksheets or rattled off the most facts. They probably weren’t the ones that insisted you follow the procedures and get the expected result.

More likely, they were the ones who helped you to think for yourself. They probably found a way to engage you in the topic and help you to appreciate it in new ways.

And then maybe they showed you how you could come to new levels of understanding in this area and use those insights to solve problems or seize opportunities.

That’s what coaching does. It helps you become a better you.

You can do that for others in the workplace. And that’s how they can help you too.

A good coach gets you to believe in yourself. They inspire you to do more than you think you can.

They do this by treating individuals as partners in a shared endeavor. They seek out ideas and insights so that you can help each other work better. They provide support and assistance to reach shared goals.

At work this comes down to sharing ownership. Because that’s what takes motivation from an external, abstract place that doesn’t carry much weight to an internal drive that builds commitment.

Conclusion

The human element of work is more important than ever. The secret sauce to success is personal development. If we can grow our existing capabilities and build new ones, we will be able to have a big impact.

That means we can’t get caught up in over-optimizing what we do now by simply trying to do it faster or cheaper. To get better, we need to think more broadly and strategically.

That’s why coaching is more important than managing. Coaches help individuals get to new levels of performance.

A great way to introduce more coaching into your collaboration style is to ask more questions. Open ended questions help you to learn about things you need to know. And also about the perspective of others.

Great coaches focus on goals, but they work toward those goals by managing focus and motivation. That’s why listening is so important.

A good coach can help people believe in themselves. To do things that maybe they didn’t think they could do. And to get to the next level of performance.

That’s why you need coaching too. We all do. So ask questions and give the guidance. But also be open to listening and learning and changing yourself too.