by John Rampton
Take a moment to think about the best boss, manager, or leader you’ve ever had. Why did you enjoy working with her? What made you admire her? Did she play a hand in helping you grow personally or professionally?
If you were fortunate enough to work with someone like that, I bet she wasn’t just your boss. She was also a coach who clearly explained what was expected of you while encouraging you to play to your strengths. She educated you and helped you work on your weaknesses. In other words, she empowered, motivated, supported, and trusted you.
At the time, that may not have seemed like a big deal. But research has found that organizations with a strong coaching culture “reported that 61 percent of their employees are highly engaged, compared to 53 percent from organizations without strong coaching cultures.” What’s more, 46 percent in organizations with strong coaching cultures notched “above-average 2016 revenue growth in relation to industry peers.”
As noted in Forbes, companies with strong coaching cultures drive employee engagement, keep employees happy, and reduce turnover. As a result, productivity increases while turnover decreases. That’s good for morale — and your bottom line.
How can you be the best boss possible and reap these benefits? Start by developing a coaching mindset and taking these steps today.
Align your coaching with your company’s core values.
“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’” - Phil Jackson
The main reason you’re embracing a coaching mindset is to achieve your company’s goals, which are guided by your core values. In other words, it’s the “why” behind the advice you share and the words of encouragement you provide. Most importantly, it’s how you can motivate your employees: by helping them see the big picture and the vital role they play within it.
Just sit back and listen.
“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.” - Margaret J. Wheatley
People earn leadership positions because they possess the talent and knowledge to excel. That doesn’t always mean they’re capable of empathizing with their team members and helping them grow.
Having a coach mindset is all about asking employees open-ended questions so you can better understand their challenges and welcome their ideas to improve the business. By actually listening to your employees — not just directing them — you learn what their dreams and priorities are. Better yet, you can show them how you can assist them in achieving those dreams. Listening to your employees indicates you trust them enough to allow them to contribute to the organization’s overall goals.
Make sure that feedback is a two-way street.
“A coach should never be afraid to ask questions of anyone he could learn from.” - Bobby Knight
While giving your employees constructive feedback is necessary, you also have to solicit feedback from them. It can be awkward and uncomfortable, but you need to regularly ask your employees how you can support them, as well as what you’re doing that’s effective (and what’s not). To get honest insights, make it clear that there won’t be any negative repercussions for offering their feedback.
This is another way to build trust with your team because you’ll be able to have more meaningful and transparent conversations. It ensures everyone’s paddling in the same direction.
“Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach people unless you love them.” - Eddie Robinson
Although they may not admit it, people want to work with bosses who genuinely care about them. For starters, go out of your way to help them, either in their personal lives or at work. Another way is to relate to them and take an interest, without being creepy, in their personal lives. You can also help them with a client or project, offer new experiences, provide perks they want, schedule one-on-one meetings, and set realistic expectations. Also, don’t overlook the small things, like a note or an email, that can let them know how much you value and appreciate them.
"In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way." - Tina Fey
Employees don’t want to be micromanaged. It makes them feel you don’t trust them enough to do the job they were hired to do in the first place. And, to be honest, who enjoys having someone constantly look over their shoulder, scrutinizing every move they make?
Coaches are facilitators who guide their teams to success. Part of this is, like Tina Fey said, getting out of your employees’ way and letting them do their thing. It’s also about letting them solve problems on their own, giving them the right tools and guidelines to succeed, clearly explaining expectations, and even making them a little uncomfortable by assigning them new responsibilities.
Help establish realistic and attainable goals.
“Coaching is the great passion of my life, and the job to me has always been an opportunity to work with our student athletes and help them discover what they want.” - Pat Summitt
I would argue that the most important responsibility for successful leaders is knowing what your employees’ goals are and helping them achieve those goals -- whether they’re personal or professional. To do that, you need to help them grow through feedback in one-on-one meetings and scheduled annual reviews, where they can discuss their experiences and where they want to go next. It’s also debriefing them following the completion of a project and providing new learning opportunities via workshops or continued education.
Most importantly, it’s making sure they aren’t set up to fail. This means clearly defining realistic goals they can achieve and providing them with the resources needed to do so.
Focus on the positive.
“My responsibility is leadership, and the minute I get negative, that is going to have an influence on my team.”- Don Shula
We all have bad days, including your employees. Instead of focusing on the negative, keep a positive attitude. This doesn’t mean ignoring the frustrations or challenges you or your team members experience. It means addressing them directly without discouraging: Listen to your employees, acknowledge their problems, and motivate them to work through their frustrations.
Remember, you need to lead by example and create a positive work environment. If you’re frequently negative, that’s going to create a toxic workplace. I highly doubt your team would stick around.
Final words of advice: Make coaching a habit.
If you want to be the best boss possible, you need to make coaching a habit. Rather than wait for an annual performance review, you need to frequently engage your teammates and provide them with real-time feedback. This ensures you’re developing them and valuing them, not just evaluating them.
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.
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