Some organizations are eliminating their performance management processes, some are revamping them with new tools and approaches, and some are maintaining the status quo. Regardless of your organizational approach to performance management, the need and desire for coaching has never been greater.
Here are two examples: If your organization is reinforcing performance management, coaching is a linchpin for the intended success. Organizations that are eliminating performance management are doing so assuming that more informal and ongoing coaching will happen, because coaching is critical.
And, we continue to put more responsibility and expectations on leaders, even as we are asking them to do more coaching.
How do we balance these realities as an individual leader?
We have to find ways to coach in informal ways and spontaneous situations better; or, said in a different way, we have to find time to coach, when we don’t have time to coach. (Tweet That)
You might be thinking about the one-on-one or face-to-face meetings you should have with your team members, but that isn’t what I’m talking about (even though part of what follows will help in those meeting too). What I am really talking about here is taking advantage of the coachable moment, where people are open to and receptive to feedback and advice, and creating more of those coaching moments.
The Informal Coaching Moment
The informal coaching moment, is, well, informal! Which means it isn’t scheduled, pre-planned or on anyone’s calendar. This can be, with some planning and the advice here, a great outcome of what Peters and Waterman famously called, in the best seller, In Search of Excellence. When you are walking by, in proximity to, and popping your head into the office of, or engaging in some way with your team members, you have the opportunity for the informal coaching moment. Specifically, the informal coaching moment includes the current state, what is coming and how you can help.
Get Out of Your Office
The informal coaching moments will happen far more often outside your office than in. Even if you are a first line team leader, you are still “the boss” and the number of people willing to stop in and say hello to you (and the frequency with which they do) will be limited in at least some ways. At the very least, if you passively wait for these moments, they will only come when others start the process. If you want more informal coaching opportunities, you have get up and start walking.
Side note: If, like me, you lead a remote team, recognize you can still do this, though a bit more metaphorically than literally. In fact, your willingness to check in with your remote team members (without them feeling like you are checking up on them) is one of the most importance skills you must learn as a remote leader.
Preparing for the Moment
While you can (and should) be intentional about creating these moments to check in and provide encouragement and guidance, they shouldn’t feel contrived or forced. If you have questions about the business, their results or project progress, or anything else, of course have a list, mental or otherwise, but don’t make that the focus of or perceived purpose for you showing up. Be prepared, but be prepared to engage, not grill or drill down to specific points the moment you arrive.
Creating the Moment
As you are out and about with your team, say hello, ask them about their hobby, weekend or family and then use open ended questions like those listed below to change this from relationship building to a business check in and potentially the creation of a coaching moment. Remember that a big part of the success of informal coaching meetings is the engagement of the other person. In fact, doing this well means always starting by getting them to talk about what is happening, how they are doing and how you can help (the components of an informal coaching moment). These are the simple questions to use to start and continue the informal coaching moment.
- What’s up?
- How’s it going?
- What’s working?
- Where are you stuck?
- How can I help?
These questions are short (only 15 words in 5 questions!) and are open-ended enough to allow the other person to point the conversation where they need it. Once the conversation is moving, you might redirect with a more specific question in context, but that will depend on how the conversation develops.
Keep Them Short
For the most part, the informal coaching moment should be moments, not minutes or a half-hour in length. If the conversation develops and more time is needed or desired, of course you will mutually have to move the conversation forward appropriately.
Doing this well will transform your relationships and the performance and results of your team members. None of this replaces or erases the need for more formal planned performance and coaching conversations, but those meetings will be more productive, and likely less frequent, when you learn how to leverage informal coaching moments.