My A-ha Moment
15 years ago when I was the Director of U.S. Senator Kohl’s Madison office, I was a multi-tasking machine, or so I thought. The only problem? I was exhausted. I never found enough time to get things done, and I felt like every day was a constant stream of interruptions to help the staff, fight fires, offer advice and solve problems.
At the same time, I was getting certified as a life coach and doing my master’s thesis on coaching. All of a sudden it clicked—the tools I was learning as a coach could also serve me as a team leader!
So, What Does That Mean?
For me it meant creating clear expectations, setting up accountability structures, formalizing individual and team meetings, and most importantly, realizing that my team members were more than capable of solving their own problems, once they realized that was the expectation and once I learned how to ask powerful questions and listen actively (instead of offering advice and jumping in to fix all the problems!).
Making these and a few other key changes helped to reorganize how our office ran, significantly decreased my workload and stress, and created more engaged and empowered employees. In a nutshell, I stopped ruining my work life and started to enjoy it more by integrating coaching skills into my management style.
Bringing Coaching Skills to Work
So, do you want more engaged, happier employees and less work and stress? Who wouldn’t! Here are a couple of things you can try starting TODAY that can make a big difference.
First, stop trying to fix things and solve problems
When someone would come into my office with an issue, my immediate response would be to try and fix it myself. Trouble is, in large, complex teams this can mean you are solving a lot of problems for a lot of people, and never get your own work done.
When I switched to using more of a coaching approach by asking my staff to come to me with a couple possible solutions to their problem, along with identifying which they thought was best, something magical happened: they realized they could solve their own problems! This lead to many fewer knocks on my door, giving me more space to focus and get out of crisis mode.
Secondly, create accountability and follow up systems.
All of my coaching sessions end with the client identifying their homework and action items. And they know that we will check in on them in our next session. To avoid wasted meetings and endless nagging, use this coaching tool at work to create accountability with your team members. At the end of every meeting, clearly identify next steps, who is responsible, and by when. It’s also essential, and incredibly helpful, to discuss what will happen (in advance!) if the action items aren’t completed by the deadline.
You will see that once responsibility has been clearly assigned, people are much more likely to follow through. The trick is to also make sure that the action steps are clear and manageable – don’t just tell someone to ‘implement a new IT system’ with no further guidance. You can continue to provide support in helping people complete their part of the project (ideally by asking them how they best want to be supported….another key coaching skill!), but if the action steps and timeline are clear it reduces the need to micro-manage. Wah-la! Less stress for you.