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Have you ever had the experience of saying something to someone and the person you are talking to revels in the knowledge? As leaders, it is easy to find ourselves in a situation where we do not realize the value of what we know or the experience under our belt. As a result, we fail to pass on this knowledge to our team members.

Whether it is omitting “obvious” things that are actually only obvious to us, or rushing to bucket things into “need to know” and therefore forgetting to impart other knowledge to our team, the end result is the same – people around us don’t get the training or information they need to operate optimally.

To be successful, you need to develop a team that is self-motivated, takes initiative, and is capable of innovation and execution. To accomplish great things, you need a team to carry your vision forward.

So how can we do a better job of imparting our information to others? How can we share knowledge in a way that makes everyone better (team members with expanded skills and leaders with more time to focus on important things)?

It’s actually an easy answer: coaching!

Below are some strategies and ideas to help you spread your knowledge more effectively and be a top leader and coach.



Different strokes for different folks

The first thing to realize is that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to coaching. Some people will flourish given more opportunity. Others need to be pushed and driven with deadlines and regular check-ins. And yet others need hand-holding and regular reassurance they are on the right path. As a leader, it is your job to adapt your style to their needs.

When it comes to adapting, there are 2 key types of behaviors (from Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory) you need to pay attention to: Task Behaviors and Relationship Behaviors. Task Behaviors are the ones that involve telling people what to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be completed. Relationship Behaviors are the social and emotional support a leader provides, such as counsel and facilitation. Good leaders are able to provide a bit of both of these, and adjust based on the maturity and needs of their teammates.


Do you understand what they need?

In order to develop people and coach people effectively, the first step is to understand their needs.

Observe and collect. You need to know someone’s current level before you can coach them to the next level. What are their shortcomings? What are their strengths? What skills do they need to improve? Some of these questions can be answered by observing them work. Paying attention to how they interact with others, how they operate in their role, and the quality of the work they produce can give you lots of clues to their work self.

In addition to observation, you can also be purposeful about gathering information.  You can talk with clients, customers, teammates, and peers to get a feel for how others perceive them. Conducting a 360 Review can be helpful as one diagnostic tool. Sometimes personality tests likes Myers Briggs can be interesting, fun ways to learn more about people and how they tick.

Have some heart-to-hearts. No matter how much information you gather through outside observation, helping someone with their development is best done with their involvement too. If you aren’t having regular meetings (like one-on-ones) with your team, then it is worth getting those on the calendar. Set aside time to talk through their goals, aspirations, and performance on a regular basis. Being disciplined about this allows you to effectively keep your finger on the pulse of their development and personal needs.

Need some questions to spark the conversation? Here are some ideas for your next meetings:

  • What do you feel you do really well?
  • Where do you think you could improve? What are you currently doing to address this, and how can I help?
  • What are the most challenging parts of the work you do? Are these things intrinsically difficult? Is the difficulty because the tools or processes are cumbersome, or perhaps because you need to develop certain skills?
  • What parts of your job do you find most enjoyable? Is this because the work is easy, or because you have talents in these areas?
  • What do you spend most of your time doing? Are there other things you should be tackling? What is stopping you from taking on those tasks (perhaps lack of confidence or ability)?
  • How do you see your career changing in the future? What skills do you need to build to get there? How do you see this aligning with our company/team mission and goals?

Between these meetings and the information you have observed and collected, you should have quite a bit to start thinking about for what each person needs and potential ways to go about accomplishing it. Which leads us to…


Creating an individual development coaching strategy

Once you have a handle on what each person needs, then you have to assess their ability (their experience, intelligence, and skills) and their willingness (do they want to be coached and have capability to act on that guidance after the fact).

Using the model from the situational leadership theory mentioned earlier, you would want to adapt your style based on their needs. Here are a few examples of how to coach each kind of individual:

Delegating: High Ability & High Willingness

People who fit this mold are likely some of your favorite people. They are a delight to work with because you can just wind them up and let them go.

Always be on the lookout for more opportunities to let them stretch their wings and take on tasks outside of their comfort zone. Keep them going by praising achievements and having regular conversations about their career trajectory.

Telling: Low Ability & High Willingness

For these individuals, the best strategy is to tell them what to do. They will be apt to listen to your instruction and eager to take on tasks that build their skills. To keep them focused, you want to prioritize giving clear instructions, being available to answer questions, and staying enthusiastic with praise for a job well done.

Selling: High Ability & Low Willingness

For these individuals it is about getting them excited about the work they need to do to grow. These people are good at their jobs; they are just less enthused about their development and current role for some reason (but that doesn’t mean they can’t get excited about the right project).

In your one-on-one meetings, try to get to the root cause of what is causing their dissatisfaction and lack of willingness.  Maybe they had a bad experience or have baggage from past events, or perhaps they have personal issues outside of work that are impacting their attitude.

Regardless, spending effort to build your relationship with them will help you harness their skills in a productive direction. Just be sure to give them praise for their work (everyone likes to feel appreciated) and maintain rhythm for regular dialog.


Putting coaching into practice

This week take a moment to categorize each of your team members.

  • How would you rate their ability and willingness?
  • What is the best strategy to develop them?
  • Are there any actions or tasks you should be doing to help them grow?

And if you aren’t sure, you can spend this week observing and collecting information. Get some meetings on the calendar and have some meaningful conversations.

Pretty soon you will have a team all on a path to roaring success. Pretty awesome, right?


Tags: better leader, communication, improvement, leadership practice, one on ones, team,

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