A.B.C. – Always Be Coaching. For managers, this is the expectation and the new standard in how you communicate with your people if you’re looking to drive the long term positive changes you need within your team.
Coaching is actually something you will be doing in every conversation and interaction you have; whether via email, during a telephone conversation, a water cooler discussion, impromptu coaching when dealing with a timely question or pressing challenge, during a deal or forecasting review, even during a team meeting.
However, when it comes to determining the frequency of your scheduled one-to-one coaching sessions with each person on your team, there are several factors to consider, including the size of your team as well as the performance level of each person.
What determines the frequency of your meetings and one-to-one coaching sessions with each person on your team? First, how many people do you have on your team? If you have a team of five or ten people, it’s much easier to manage your time and your schedule to accommodate weekly one-to-one hour long meetings.
A larger team is more of a challenge due to time constraints as well as your additional responsibilities. While group or team coaching is also an option to fill in some gaps, there is still no substitute for providing individualized attention. For larger teams, I suggest a minimum of two individualized hour long scheduled coaching sessions per month for each member of your team, even though weekly one-to-one hour long coaching sessions would be ideal. Keep in mind, there’s also the additional coaching you will provide each week via every interaction you have with each person on your team. As a benchmark, the top coaches in global sales organizations are coaching each person on their team about 7 hours per month in total.
But There’s Not Enough Hours in the Day!
I know, you’re doing the math now, trying to figure out how you’re going to find another 70 hours a month for coaching your team of ten people. You may be thinking, “Keith I don’t have the time for this? How am I supposed to fit coaching around all of my other responsibilities?” The real question you need to ask yourself and the shift each manager needs to make to truly make coaching the priority is this. “How can I fit all of my other responsibilities around my coaching?”
Frequency and consistency are key, just like when you exercise. The more time you spend exercising and the better you eat, the healthier you become. And that process becomes a lifestyle not a destination. Sure, you may have some goals you want to achieve along the way but you don’t get to a point and then say, “Okay, I’m done; I don’t need to eat healthy or exercise anymore!” The same rule applies to building and maintaining the health of your career and your team.
Ultimately, you’ll find part of the solution to uncovering how much coaching each person needs or wants by asking your staff how much additional support they need to reach their goals faster and how frequently they would like to meet with you. Other than a turnaround situation or an issue that needs immediate resolution, it’s up to you and each person on your team to find the balance and determine the frequency of ongoing coaching. This also includes scheduling coaching sessions with your top performers so that everyone on your team is getting coached.
Every Conversation = Coaching Moment
Coaching sessions don’t have to be long to be effective, especially if you consider every conversation a coaching moment. Some coaching moments will be very short and some may take an hour or longer. Keep in mind, the length of the conversation is important to ensure that the person you are coaching gets the value they want and need from each coaching experience.
Regardless of the length of any coaching conversation, be mindful of this toxic trap that managers fall into. You don’t get points for ‘speed coaching.’ Rushing through a coaching conversation will do more damage than good and will lead to greater inefficiency, especially if you don’t take the time, have the patience and create the space for the person to be coached so that they can process the conversation at their pace and arrive at a solution on their own. The result? You’ll become frustrated, they’ll become discouraged and you will both be disenchanted about coaching. Consequently, this can lead to a further strain on the relationships you have with your direct reports and erode the trust you have with them which you may have worked very hard to build.
As you start coaching, you will be able to determine how long each scheduled session needs to be for each one of your people. You may even find that after coaching your team for a time, you may no longer need one full hour for each person and there’s the possibility that thirty minutes or so may be perfectly adequate. Furthermore, depending upon the productivity level of your team, I know some managers with high performing teams who have scheduled fifteen minute one to one coaching huddles (some daily and some weekly) as a way to maintain their team’s momentum and focus throughout each week.
A Need to be Regular and Consistent
However, what is just as important is the ongoing nature of the coaching process. Effective coaching must be regular and consistent. Coaching that starts and stops in fits of activity, need or urgency is not effective and leads to dips in performance. Coaching is a work-focused lifestyle choice that individuals and organizations make, rather than conditional or event based. And once made, the decision to coach has to be ongoing.
Managers must realize that every conversation is a coaching conversation, even when you have to address issues, handle problems, deal with reviews and so on, so informal coaching happens all the time. If there is an ongoing, balanced blend of informal coaching happening, formal coaching can easily be weekly and in some cases, biweekly and still be effective.
Regardless, one thing is for certain. Coaching never ever stops! After all, once you have the evidence and start experiencing the return on investment that you and your direct reports can realize through ongoing, effective coaching (healthier work culture, greater personal accountability, increased sales and productivity, improved retention of top performers, more career satisfaction, and so on) coaching will become like candy – you and your team will just keep wanting it more!
So, remember the A.B.C.’s of coaching and Always Be Coaching.
Photo Credit: Wee Sen Goh