Most leadership training these days will discuss the importance of coaching. In day-to-day practice, coaching is typically carried out by the manager who offers advice to the employee about ways to complete a task more effectively or efficiently. It usually centers on where the employee can improve performance. While this approach can be necessary and useful, there is an even more effective way to bring about peak performance in a person – coaching them when they perform at a high level.
Think about it. This kind of conversation makes a person feel strong and capable. It lifts the person up. After all, it always feels energizing when your manager is having a conversation about the areas where you excel and engages in a conversation about your best. Making people feel confident is an underrated, but extremely important aspect of managing people.
A quick side note, I am not talking about recognizing people for a job well done. I think most managers do that, and it does raise a person’s level of esteem. I’m talking about a conversation that uncovers how and why a person is good at something and how the person can replicate that performance again and/or transfer elements of that strong performance to other tasks or situations.
There are some reasons why this topic is sparse in our credit unions:
1. It’s counter intuitive. After all, if work is getting done successfully, there isn’t a lot to tell the person. With limited time, and a lot of work, why coach a person when things are done well? For one reason, when a person is good at something that’s where their greatest opportunities for growth, self-assuredness and peak performance lie. If, as their manager, we can highlight and explore how and why they are performing well, we can look for opportunities to leverage that performance in other areas. The best way to understand top performance is to take the time to investigate it.
- 2. Another reason is that there is a misconception that coaching is about telling a person how to do something. The truth is coaching is more about asking than telling. Pure coaching is about helping the person make their own discoveries and decisions, not telling them what to do or how to do it. Everyone is different, and what works for one person won’t work for another. By asking questions, you can help the person discover what works for them. Additionally, when a person arrives at their own conclusions there is typically more ownership than when they are told what to do.
If you’re going to try this type of coaching, here are a few points to consider:
- 1. Focus on the present and the future. The present—to understand the excellent performance. The future—to determine how and where the person can do this again.
- 2. Make sure the objective is clear and your employee understands why you’re asking questions and what the point of the conversation is. If you rarely do this and launch into a litany of questions, your employee may be confused.
- 3. Ask relevant questions and then listen with intent, as these are the cornerstones of effective coaching. If you’re really paying attention, your employee will give you the next question to ask, but here are a few that might be helpful to get the conversation started:
- a. What were you thinking when you were doing that task?
b. How was your energy level when you were in the midst of doing the work?
c. What made you successful in that task?
d. What came naturally to you in that task?
e. What areas might you be able to transfer this strength?
- 4. End with one or two positive actions that will be taken by either one or both of you.
- 5. Finally, check back after an appropriate amount of time has passed to see what progress has been made.
Making the time to coach peak performance can yield amazing results. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did!
Joe Bertotto has more than three decades of experience helping leaders improve their workplace cultures. He is the chief culture officer at Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. In 2014, Joe was named a Credit Union Rock Star by Credit Union Magazine. He also recently published his book, Pick Up the Gum Wrapper: How To Create a Workplace That Increases Performance While Improving Lives, which credit union leaders have been using as a guide to increase the effectiveness of their leadership skills and overall culture.