As mentioned in the section on teamwork above, building a successful team requires lots of hard work, ideas, experience, and good fortune. Leaders and team members alike need highly tuned people skills to thrive over the long haul. The successful leader is an exceptional coach and relationship builder. In his work on coaching, Steven Stowell found seven coaching elements to be of particular importance. They are:
1. Don’t rock the boat. Too many people assume that the best way to build strong relationships is to keep quiet, keep your head down and eyes closed. The worst thing you can do when you have a concern or a problem is to let it fester. Too often we fear upsetting the apple cart. In fact is this is the worst thing we can do. RECOMMENDATION: Ask, talk, and engage people in the spirit of inquiry and understanding. You don’t need to wait until you have an ironclad case.
2. Delay. Some people see a coaching opportunity and procrastinate. They say to themselves, I will make a move at the right moment when I am not so busy. We rationalize that there will be an ideal time to talk. As a result we do more damage as we wait for this magic moment to appear. RECOMMENDATION: Keep people in perspective, budget time to talk with them. Find out what’s going on. Ask others who work with you. Find solutions to common problems.
3. Dump. A lot of leaders open up only after the list of topics is so long that it would topple a shopping cart. When you dump a list of concerns, people react by defending and covering up. Dumping usually creates deep wounds. RECOMMENDATION: Be selective and focus on a few conversation topics rather than be comprehensive. People appreciating talking about one or two issues at a time. Don’t swamp them with too many suggestions and changes. One quality solution is more important than a lot of weak ones.
4. Dominate. When some supervisors to open up dialogue, they are unable to control the floodgates. The conversation whips into a firestorm of accusations, venting, and anger. Even when the emotions are not toxic, they can be volatile. It is not uncommon for people to sermonize or lecture. RECOMMENDATION: Plan ahead. Rehearse thoughts in your mind. Don’t go on for more than 30 seconds on anyone point. Try to keep a rough mental clock. Generally when you spend more than 50% of the time talking, you are overstepping the boundaries.
5. Prescribe. It is easier said than done. Many of us take pride in our expertise. As supervisors we feel we have a lot to offer, and that we know what is best. We forget that the coach is really supposed to help define the situation and facilitate an agreement to solutions so that others can feel ownership. Once we begin selling our preformed ideas, our ability to brainstorm and participate diminishes. RECOMMENDATION: Ask questions, inquire before you advocate. Try to draw out your partners. Find out why they know and what solutions they have in mind. Try to guide rather than dictate.
6. Attack. It is not uncommon for mistakes to escalate. Such is the case with dumping and dominating. If emotions are not monitored and kept in check, it is possible for well-intended discussions to degenerate into aggressive and angry feelings. Attacks and explosions feel like punishment to our partners. In the long run emotional baggage builds up. When you attack, you make the issue personal rather than objective. RECOMMENDATION: Go slow, put it down on paper, step back and look at all the factors. Usually serious problems have many roots. Don’t blame one person. Be a little vulnerable by looking at your own contribution to the situation. Put your concerns in writing and see if the tone and spirit is there.
7. Denial. Is easier to see the faults and needs in others than to identify them in ourselves. This phenomenon is called a self-serving bias. Encourage and seek out feedback from others. If you model a willingness to develop and improve, others around you will do so as well. RECOMMENDATION: Try to identify your contributions to the issues and concerns. Be totally open, upfront, and candid. Don’t get defensive, let others see your own shortcomings.
In the Eight Step Coaching Model figure, those actions taken to become a better coach are shown. They are self-explanatory in training is available from books as well as workshops. Good coaching is a way of being as well as doing. This way of being allows our values to drive behaviors. Like Olympic coaches, business leaders should evaluate themselves in two areas, skills and style, which are the expression of your values.