One of my favorite things about coaching is that it holds YOU as the expert in your own life. If you want someone to tell you what to do, do NOT hire a coach (not a good one at least!). Because in coaching, the goal is to ask questions, and get you thinking about what you want and how to get there. A coach doesn’t make the decisions for you, but helps you figure out how to make your own decisions. However, when I teach managers how to use coaching skills to empower employees, I often get push back. “Isn’t my job to provide the answers and give advice?” Well, yes….and no.
Do you have ALL the answers?
15 years ago when I started really developing myself as a coach, I realized that the skills I was learning could be used in other parts of my life as well. And while my two daughters don’t always appreciate the value of a nice, powerful question, they do get them talking! I also discovered that I could use my coaching skills in what was then my day job.
As the office director for U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, I supervised a lot of other people, from interns on up. And working in the office of a politician involves solving LOTS of problems. Since I was the director, I used to think solving ALL the problems was my responsibility. So, I had an open door policy, and all day I would get asked ‘what should I do?’ And I would tell them! Who even knows if I was right, but I felt like I was the boss (expert) and should therefore have all the answers.
Let others be the expert
The biggest issue with this approach is that it is exhausting! You spend your day listening to people explain challenges and trying to fix them. But the other problem is that it doesn’t really build the skills and confidence of your employees. When I started to think more like a coach at the office, I realized I had a lot of smart people on my team, many of whom were experts in their own right! And so, rather than continue to give them solutions, I started asking them to find their own.
Three great things happened:
- People started figuring things out on their own, making my life easier.
- Their solutions were better because they had more details and data than I did!
- I had more engaged, empowered employees.
If people feel more ownership and responsibility, they enjoy their jobs more and are both happier AND more productive at work. Win-win for all involved.
You need questions, not answers
In order to build up and use the expertise of others, I started asking questions. LOTS of questions. This required my employees to think for themselves. They also started to know the questions would be coming, so they came in more prepared. And eventually, they realized that in many cases they didn’t need my help at all. Fortunately, they did still need me for some things, or else I might have been out of a job! It’s all about expanding your range, and knowing when to be the expert problem solver and when to be a coach.
So, remember to strengthen your Thoughtfully Fit core! Next time someone comes to you for advice, PAUSE and give yourself permission not to be the problem solver. Instead, take some time to THINK of some really great thoughtful questions. Then ACT differently and watch your employees become their own fixers.
Want to learn more how to use coaching skills to be an effective manager? Join me at my upcoming 2-day workshop on the Business Coach Approach!