Huddle Up!

Let The Coaching Begin

Once you've set an agenda, complete with a to-do list, goals and a timetable, it's time to get down to actually coaching the employee. Although individual sessions will vary, there are a few hard and fast rules to keep in mind:

  • "Make sure you do more listening than talking," says Brittain. "A rule of thumb is that the coach should listen 60 percent of the time."

Popovich agrees. "One thing I see in so many managers is a lack of listening skills," he says, "but those are skills you need to develop to coach effectively."

  • Let the employee do most of the problem-solving. When the employee says, "Well, I have a problem because . . ." don't jump in with solutions. Instead, ask "What are some possible ways you know to solve the problem?" Coaching is helping an employee do his or her job better, not doing the job yourself.

"Managers are too quick to offer solutions, but that doesn't develop their employees," says Richardson. "Challenge your people to solve their own problems--with your help--and they probably will."

  • "Protect the employee's self-esteem," urges Popovich. "Be honest in what you're saying, but also watch what you're saying. Don't come across as too critical." Employees, he adds, are just like you--under a lot of stress--which means everyone involved is hypersensitive. But your employee can't do a better job without believing that he or she can do it, and letting a few offhanded critical words slip can undermine that.
  • Tailor your coaching sessions to the individual. "Coaching is one-on-one, and it takes into account the personality and skills of the individual employee," says Popovich. Make sure you have a clear idea of what the employee's strengths and weaknesses are before you begin trying to coach that person.

What should you do as the coaching starts to take hold and the employee begins to actually produce better results? "Recognize, recognize, recognize," says Brittain. "Recognition is a powerful motivational tool that isn't used nearly enough."

But don't just say "Good job." That's only a start. To make the recognition more powerful you have to be specific. "The more exact you are about why you're offering praise and recognition, the more likely you are to see that positive behavior strengthened," says Brittain.

Coaching may sound like harder work than you imagined, but the results are likely to be well worth the effort. "If you know the skills it takes and come into it with patience, you can do it," says Russakoff.

Brittain adds that there's a sweet benefit in coaching for any boss who puts in the effort. "It's a marvelous feeling to watch somebody grow and know that you contributed," he says. "It's very rewarding to be a good coach."

Contact Sources

Bottom Line Consultants, (804) 741-5771,

Dynamic Performance Institute, (888) 262-8686,

Growth and Leadership Center, (650) 966-1144,

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Huddle Up!.

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