Don’t get me wrong, I love saying, “Good job.” If I am out in a shop and I hear or see something I like, I will pronounce that proudly, “Good job.” But that’s not coaching; that’s positive feedback (and I love that). Both positive feedback and negative feedback should be very strong parts of your communication model — and that communication model should serve as the driver of your coaching model.
There are several coaching skills models you can look at, and they all involve feedback, active listening, building rapport and showing empathy. In other words, you need to have good communication skills and want someone to succeed. But you’ve got that — you have been reading the articles, doing that homework and you want to succeed. You already invited in conflict, wrote a plan and put a growth culture in place. Now, we can start making waves in the company.
When most people think about the word coaching, they generally will turn their attention to sports. Coaches of football teams are probably the most visible and covered coaching staffs of all sports and set a great theme for this article. Just so you know where my heart is housed — Who Dat!
Pick Your Battles
Let’s start from the beginning — your hiring practices. During the recruiting process of the draft, tangibles are measured such as height, weight, strength and other athletic abilities. But just as important is an intangible measurement called coachability. This is the ability, or willingness, for the potential all-star to be coached and accept direction. You can have one of the greatest arms in the draft but still not come out in a favorable position, if you don’t have favorable coachability. Great coaches are looking for good talent with great coachability.
In your shop, you must align your team with the mindset of being coached. That not only includes building rapport and having exceptional listening skills, but it also means seeking out candidates who have high coachability probability. You can seek these out through the interview. Perhaps making an edit suggestion on their resume. You are looking for them to listen, take notes or thank you. If they come with rebuttal about why they like it, you may be talking to someone with low coachability scores. After all, who doesn’t want to hear how their chances of getting hired can be increased? Be sure to talk about their last jobs, most importantly, honing in on their last manager above them. Ask what management skills they liked and what they didn’t like. If the words, “the manager didn’t know what he was doing,” come out of her mouth, you probably should write that candidate off.
If you bring someone into your team with no or very little coachability, you are setting your team and yourself up for failure. Be sure to smartly pick to whom you choose to give your time and knowledge. Don’t bring a player onto your field who does not want to execute your plans. Pick your battles, and pass up on the high-skilled player who doesn’t listen.
Coach or Complain
Recently, I saw a very successful team blowout the opposing champions. During this time, the defense of the winning team gave up a big pass and the cameras panned over to a very red-faced head coach ripping off his headset and showing his disapproval to his team. The announcers chuckled and said, “That’s just coaching.” The fact that the team was up by 41 points tended to have some in my immediate group stating that was just complaining. The difference is in what is said to the players. If coach had said something to the line of, “You always give up those big plays when we need you. Why can’t you cover him correctly?” That would be considered complaining. What is typically said in the coaching model is, “That was a nickel defense cover two. Your reasonability was to cover him in between the hashmarks. We expect you to make that play.”
When you are coaching up an employee, there are a few key items you need to keep in mind. The obvious one would be not to throw your headset on the ground and start cursing. What you should be doing is coaching in the present. This is something we fail at constantly (sometimes with both our employees and spouses). Don’t bring up past situations to justify your disappointment for today. Don’t bring up future plans that will diminish the efforts of today. Coach about what is going on in this moment. Talk about what is going on and what needs to be done. Also, talk to your employee in a manner that holds them responsible. You know their potential, and it’s up to you to bring their best out of them. Most coachable people will rise to the expectations of the leader: “I know you can do that. I need you to do this. You got this.” Ensure they understand their responsibility and your expectations.
Timing is Everything
Just as important as what you say and how you say it, is when you say it. Imagine as the head coach you catch a receiver cutting his routes short early in the year. However, you decide this is something that is not important at the time — in this time, he must learn the play calls and audibles. When prime season arrives, the receiver will know all the plays but will not perform them to satisfaction. Timing is everything when you are coaching up a player or an employee.
As a leader, we must begin to hold our employees responsible for their actions as soon as they have the knowledge of how to run the play. Our elaborate plans, perfect recruiting styles and growth culture mean nothing if we don’t hold our team responsible at the very beginning. Your technicians will soon notice your lack of detail and will soon take advantage of you dropping guard. Your wallet will soon be filled with bills and notes from upset customers instead of money.
Look at “The One-Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D. This was a required book for my team, as it discusses quick, direct and encouraging conversations between the ranks. Evaluate your hiring practices to ensure you are not looking for that lifelong lube tech, but, instead, someone who will accept coaching. Catch your employees doing something right, and let them know about it (good job). Educate your employees on your expectations, and hold them responsible immediately. Decide that you can really make a difference in your team, and then read my next few articles. Or think your people skills are top-notch, and watch your people go to the competitors and succeed. It’s your wallet, after all. Until then, be great!