Last time I talked about the importance of being forward focused in coaching your people. The idea is to take them into the future and discuss how to handle a particular situation. You ask them what they’d say/what they’d do and coach them to be sure they’ll say/do the things you want them to. And, to be sure the behavior will be consistent in the future, make sure they’re clear as to why making these statements/taking these actions is important.
But how can you know for sure they’ll do it right – that the actions they’ll take are the right ones – that they’ll get the desired results. As they walk away after your discussion, you want to feel assured that what will happen is exactly what should happen. You want to have confidence in them; you sure don’t want to have to talk about the situation again.
Use Questions to Encourage Action
To feel assured and confident, you’ll want to have a bit more forward-focused discussion where you get into the “nitty-gritty” of what they’ll say/what they’ll do. This discussion should be driven by asking a number of specific questions that encourage action – probing for all the details – so you know exactly what they’ll say/what they’ll do.
- What specifically will you do?
- How will that work?
- What’s the first step? …the second?
- If you do that, what will happen next?
To help them see the benefits, prepare for some possible challenges:
- What are the upsides of doing that? What are some possible downsides?
To explore alternatives if what is proposed isn’t the best approach:
- What’s an alternative that might work better?
- What else could you do?
To verify that they know what to do, end with:
- What can I reasonably expect to see done differently?
- How will I know that you’re doing that? How will I know that’s happening?
Combine these with some of the clarifying questions below to get all the details and you’ll learn everything you need to know to be assured they’ll say or do the right things.
- Tell me more…
- In what way?
- How so?
- Go on…
- For example?
- Such as?
- I’d love to hear more about that.
By helping your people think through what they’ll say or do ahead of time, you’ll help them see the benefits of their actions and uncover and handle potential difficulties. And the “tweaks” you suggest are often critical to their success!
Now you’re thinking, “John, I don’t have time to go through all this every time with each person I coach.” And you’re right, you don’t. I’m suggesting you take the time whenever you can. By taking the time to essentially rehearse what they’ll say/what they’ll do, your people gain competence (they’ll do it better), confidence (they’re more assured in their actions) and comfort (they do it more naturally). This makes them both more efficient (Productive) and more effective (Profitable) in the long run. By the way, both these go out the window when you have to take time later to re-discuss how to handle the situation. It’s similar to the concept of Fixed Right the First Time. When you don’t take the time to do it right the first time and you have a ‘comeback’, you really pay the price – lost Productivity, lost Profits and lost Customers – a price we simply can’t afford in these tough times!
A tremendous side benefit when you do this is that you get to give your people lots of praise and encouragement for doing things right (…we all sure need more of this these days). This is good for everybody – you feel good, they feel good and you both tend to pass these good feelings on to others (…including your customers!). People like doing business with companies where there is a climate of good feelings. They notice; they come back again and again.
As I wrote last time, your goal as a manager – what you get paid to do – is to have your people consistently do the right things, right.
The key is for them to understand what to do and why – and for you to hear them say it.
Now I can add that you both know specifically what that action is and how exactly it will take place.
Review Future Actions – Praise When You See Them Happen
To review: You simply take people into the future, review together what they’ll say/do – in detail whenever possible – and why that’s important… and you’re done. Oh, and don’t forget that when you see them say it or do it right tell them about it! More praise, with all the benefits that comes with it!