Be a Practical Coach

One of the most inspiring leadership books I’ve read is a gem called The Practical Coach, this blog post is dedicated to it.

The Practical Coach teaches us to be… well…. practical. It teaches us to keep it simple, real, & light. Yes, “simple, real, light” sounds like advertizing for a low-fat yogurt.

Being a leader, coach, & manager is a tough gig- one of the toughest out there. And with leadership, coaching, among other hype words clouding our space it makes it difficult to do your job: which ultimately is to problem solve.

We’re clouded all day; the information being thrown at us, the demands of our lives, our aspirations….. It’s the information revolution and as a people leader it’s one thing: overwhelming.

In order to sift through this and to evoke — something: action, learning, results, we need to bring ourselves to a state of simplicity: simple, real, light. The state of mind I’m referring to is a little place called Unconscious Competence. You’re just doing it, it’s natural, and it’s simple. It’s clarity, seeing out of a clean window into your one direction.

A softball analogy: Professional athletes are the holy grail of unconscious competence. They step up to the plate, hit the ball. Run across the field, catch the ball. Simple. How is this possible, shrieks my inner-ballet-trained-non-athletic-self? They’re keeping it simple. The ball has been hit, they look up, track it with their eyes, and voila, glove meets ball, What didn’t happen? They didn’t freak out.

Alright, alright – what does an outfielder, unconscious competence, and coaching have to do with one another? It’s about being in a place where you can think clearly, stay calm, and assess the right move to make. Keep it simple.

Here’s where Practical Coach comes in & the 3 C’s to check every time you’re unhappy with an employee’s performance:

Communicate: Asking yourself whether you have effectively communicated your expectations and set standards is step one in performance management and coaching. News Flash!! Your employees can’t read your mind and guess what, they don’t care to.  If you can’t enthusiastically shout — Yes! to communicating your expectations then you need to start at square one. Tip: When setting a standard or your expectations focus on the “why” not the “what” – and if it’s a gen Y, leverage WIFM: what’s in it for me. Me being your 20 year old employee. Focus your message on why they should care, how it matters and is linked to their personal purpose and corporate vision, and what they can expect out of their effort.  Focus on the why.

Coach: Each of your employees needs to be coached, your A players, too. Focus your coaching on unearthing the root cause. When did this behaviour start, was there a time when this person performed better, why did things change. This is where you put on your Detective Hat and start asking questions. Tip: Practice two techniques: 1. WAIT – Why am I talking? 2. Effective questioning. If you’re not getting the answers you want, it’s likely the questions you’re asking.

Consequences: Dum, da, dum, dum! We all need them. Dogs, toddlers, teens, and cats. It’s a part of life: if you touch a thorn you will be pricked. First, establish a culture of transparency: employees should know that if they do not perform their job (well) then they will be held accountable. Next, actually hold them accountable. Tip: Ensure the consequence is considered a consequence to your employee. If it’s not viewed as ‘something bad’ you’ll just reward them.

In summary: take a step back, don’t freak out, and ask yourself – have I communicated, coached, and given consequences? 3 C’s.

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