4 Ways to Energize Through Coaching
Telling-leaders drain and disengage. Coaching-leaders energize.
Energize through coaching:
#1. Assume others know:
Others don’t know everything, but they know something.
- What do you know about this situation?
- What’s important about this situation?
- Where does your thinking go next?
- What opportunities or solutions come to mind?
- What else have you thought about?
- What other factors could be considered?
- Who else might have knowledge or experience in this area?
Telling-leaders drain by:
- Pretending to listen and collaborate.
- Moving forward without seeking input.
- Withholding or rejecting feedback.
- Feeling surprise at the confusion of others.
- Wondering why everyone doesn’t automatically fall in line.
Bonus: Telling-leaders drain by propagating the charade that they always know.
#2. Ask, “How would you like to contribute?”
Telling-leaders create environments where people end up saying, “I was waiting for you to tell me what to do.”
Coaching-leaders engage and energize by asking, “How would you like to contribute?”
Energized people get more done.
#3. Avoid problem-centric questions:
Jump to solutions. Don’t waste time on figuring out why problems happened.
It’s fascinating, but futile, to explore why you’re upset with a customer or colleague. Knowing why something happened doesn’t solve it.
“What would you like to do next time,” moves people forward better than, “Why did this happen.”
#4. Ask solution-centric questions:
Don’t waste time searching for causes.
Knowing the cause of a problem isn’t a solution. “Solutions” solve problems.
- What’s working well?
- How might you learn from what’s working?
- What’s happening when the problem is not present?
- How can we do more of that?
- How have you solved similar challenges?
Solutions energize; problems drain.
Coaching-leaders seek solutions with/from others. Telling-leaders live with the stress of needing to know all the answers.
How might coaching-leaders engage and energize others?
*This post is inspired by, “Coaching for Engagement.”
Do you aspire to become a coaching leader?
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Love this post! I’d like to forward it to every telling leader I know. “Knowing the cause of a problem isn’t a solution. “Solutions” solve problems.” Love this line. Too much time is spent on how or why something happened. Let people join in coming up with the solution and implementing it. Chances are high that they know the how. Hindsight is 20/20.
Sarah, I love that line too – that’s the one that stood out for me. In my development as a coach I’ve come to understand I have one fundamental problem to address every day – how do we develop and grow our people? By ensuring I stay focused on that – as in “how do I turn this into a learning opportunity for this individual” – I become far more inclined to help them develop their skills. Of course, it’s the same process that helps them find solutions to the original problem they presented. It’s all about turning “tell” into “teach”.
Thanks Alf. Hats off to you for your commitment to develop and grow people. I know it’s making a difference for you and your organization.
Thank Sarah. I’m delighted you appreciate this idea. I find problems to be magnetic, but we have to fight for solutions.
Dan I always love your posts, but this one really spoke to me today.
Thanks Susan. It’s pure joy to be on the journey with people like you.
I get what you’re saying about not dissecting and wallowing in the past, but I’ve often found that good solutions are easier to find when the problem is truly known. Rushing into the solution phase of problem-solving without exploring causation seems risky. What do you think?
Thanks Emily. I’m so glad you brought your insights. I think there’s a difference between trying to figure out why a problem happened and defining it.
I’ll add that I lean toward defining the win as the most powerful thing we can do. So many are struggling with problems but when they’re asked what they are working toward, the answer is ambiguous. Cheers
I guess I’m in the minority if not alone on this one. Should you dwell on what doesn’t work? No. But should you seek to understand what went wrong? Yes I say as knowing why it failed might be more valuable than what went well – but both are important. Edison supposedly had 10,000 failures before the right configuration for the light bulb worked. How many trials would it have taken if he had not considered the failures? That’s all he had!!!!
The goal is a useful outcome for sure. But lots of useful information comes from the failures as we work toward that goal. I’d suggest that every time we learn something, from total failures as well as partial failures and almost successes, we are (or should be) energized.
I’D ARGUE THAT THE QUESTIONS YOU SUGGEST ARE IMPORTANT AFTER GETTING SUCCESS – TO FIGURE OUT WHY IT SUCCEEDED, HOW IT MIGHT BE IMPROVED, HOW IT MIGHT BE APPLIED ELSEWHERE, WHAT FURTHER TESTING MIGHT HELP WITH UNDERSTANDING, …
Thanks jcbjjr. I’m thankful you joined in. I wonder if there is a difference between dealing with technical issues and developing people?
I’d say definitely no. First, until one gets useful results or outcomes, there’s nothing but some type of failure to help our effort to succeed. Second, when developing people of any age, we’re trying to facilitate their learning, really… We want them to optimize alignment of their knowledge, skills, habits in the pursuit of the goals at hand – whether it’s a better widget, a better service to the public, or a better understanding of third grade math.
Thanks jcbjr. Thanks again for joining in. Looks like we’ll have to disagree on this one. “What went wrong,” is the wrong starting place for coaching-leaders. “How can we/you make this better,” engages and energizes the mind to move the ball down the field.
Under time pressure or crisis, coaching-leadership may not be relevant. But, if the coaching style is relevant, the starting place is looking forward.
As I typed this, I remembered Jay Elliot, former Sr. VP at Apple, who said, “Great people beat themselves up. My job is to lift them up.” I think this approach applies here as well.
It’s not simply emphasizing the failure, the mistake, the failure… It’s about thinking positively about getting better. So asking what did seem good, seemed to work (and thus should be built upon in moving forward) – a positive I’d assume you’d agree Dan – is a good thing. BUT I’d suggest asking what went wrong, what alternative(s) might be tried is a positive and is worth including.
I just don’t see how thinking about the failure to tweak, to replace – when it might be anywhere from almost working to a total failure – is not a positive contribution to reaching a successful outcome. Truly dumbfounded….
I definitely agree that a coaching leader is the right way to go and I do consider most of htis post right on.
I do have one concern (which others have expressed) around the post though and I’d love to get your input. I’d also love to hear thoughts from others. The statements:
“Jump to solutions. Don’t waste time on figuring out why problems happened.” and
“Don’t waste time searching for causes. Knowing the cause of a problem isn’t a solution. “Solutions” solve problems.” cause me some consternation.
I have always taken the approach to solve the immediate problem, but then to do a retrospective to understand what happened to understand if we can put anything in place so that it will not happen again. If you do not look for the root cause, how do you prevent the same mistake in the future?
Thanks Bill. I’m glad you joined in.
What I see happening is people figure out what behaviors solve the failure and in the process, it doesn’t happen again.
In a coaching context, questions like “what hasn’t worked,” may be part of the conversation. Other questions might be, “What do you want to avoid?” Or “What went wrong?”
Those questions are “what” questions and focus people on behaviors. I’m not a fan of “why” questions unless we are defining purpose.
Strong stuff, Dan. And the other reactions support that conclusion. It is just a shame that the yellers and tellers do not have a clue about how bad that “practiced strategy of performance management” really works. And so few seem interested in changing their behavior. That is why Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup and viewer of tons of survey comments, thinks that 7,000,000 managers should be fired.
I think a lot of people think that coaching is modeled after the football coaches that yell and scream to get their players to play better. They pray before games, too. That is probably a more successful concept, but the two things put together are simply weird…
“No gun, no fun.” Does that explain their viewpoint???
Thanks Dr. Scott. Glad you brought up coaching sports teams vs. coaching leaders. The context and culture is so different. Perhaps the difference is tone? However all coaches are interested in the same thing, maximum performance.
I don’t know about you, but I never enjoyed the in your face approach.
I hadn’t read Clifton quote. Boom!!
After root cause analysis (which does not assign “blame”), the next step is to work out a solution to the cause or causes. It is here where I have trouble trusting…too often a solution that could be managed with changes to the tools are ignored in favor of painstaking manual processes. People are smart, but fewer are clever, and even fewer have the strength of imagination that leads to a true solution. There. I’ve said it. Luckily, it can be taught. I guess that is coaching.
Thanks Dunk. Great seeing you again. I think the starting place is where do you want to go or what do you want to happen.
I can see a conversation about a process or technical failure that starts with “what broke,” or “what went wrong.” But when it comes to people, “What do you want,” is an approach that lifts the spirit.
My suggestion is to try it. Just start a conversation with the solution orientation.
I’m enjoying this conversation.
I can definitely see the solution oriented perspective’s positive effect on productivity,not to mention the inclusion that stems from it; however, I can definitely relate to the point made by @jcbjr9455 .
Especially with people, often times everyone has a different opinion of what ’caused’ the problem which can create a problem when trying to find a solution. If people don’t truly understand what the problem is then the solutions never truly ‘solve the problem’ because the problem is never actually understood.
I know that sometimes so much time is spent going in circles about what everyone thought went wrong that very little progress occurs; however, that can be avoided with proper conversation driving and focus. Often things do come out of the ‘problem causing’ discussion that reveal holes and real issues in the format or protocol that were previously not as noticeable to managers and leaders.
A pessimistic drive to find the cause will lead nowhere, however an objective pursuit for a solution through understanding the problem will lead to the objective.
Good as always, anyway you look at it Coaching leaders have Winners and Losers, they all still make the team, the key as we have so often mentioned is getting them on the same path to success. Which success is always a variable seen through different eyes and beliefs.
I agree with some here that there’s a lot of value in looking back and at least trying to define what went wrong. But I think it has to be done in the spirit of information-gathering that allows us to move past the failure, otherwise it can degenerate into a lot of finger-pointing and blame-shifting.
This is a great article I coaching and the inherent benefits of adopting this stance as a leader. I do believe though that contrasting a coaching leader with a telling leader is a bit simplistic. Working with department heads I need to know when to coach and engage in that mode or wheat to mentor. I believe there is a real art (I haven’t mastered yet) to shifting between these modes with the same person.
I agree with some here that jumping to solution might not be the best idea. While it is an instinct that most people have whdn faced with a problem, jumping to a potential solution often times leads us to simply solving for a symptom of the problem rather than the actual problem.
There is no harm in asking “Why?” as long as it is done in a non-accusatory context and in the spirit of moving forward and getting better.
Sometimes, I just lose it… And sometimes, a thought will pop into my head that questions things and generates a kind of befuddled reaction. When I read about Coaching, it sometimes does that. Somehow it feels to me like to “Coach,” people frame this into the specific need to get some kind of certification and training and that it is some special talent or some such thing that requires some dedicated event. So, my stupidly simple reaction:
Don’t ALL the managers of people realize that “Coaching” is actually a good part of what we call “management?”
I would think that everyone would realize that you cannot manage and lead without actually talking with people around the issues of performance and results and opportunities and all that stuff. Talking WITH them to share direction, perspective and ideas.
But somehow, in reading about this stuff, it gets framed up like it is some kind of special competency that is not a part of everyday supervision.
Coaching ain’t PowerPoint and Coaching ain’t yelling like we see in Friday Night Lights (movie) and watching the sidelines in football.
Or, am I just over-reaction because engagement and motivation are so damn low in so many workplaces; data like 50% of workers do not feel their boss respects them. Am I missing this, somehow?
Interesting post, thank you. What is hitting me the hardest is that, in the short term, it is easy to be a “telling-leader”, because you do not have to spend time teaching someone else, but in the long run, you make people very dependable on you, which is very draining. To be a coaching-leader is hard work, you have to spend time with people, but in the long run, they become independent and can carry over the coaching to someone else.