>Having the right conversation


In recent weeks I’ve been training and advising about using coaching as a format to develop staff for first time line managers. I mean line managers should be doing this anyway and that’s why it’s important to stress that coaching is a key technique in their bag of tricks that they should be able to do – Well.

But why is this the case? Why do managers need to bother doing this kind of activity to develop their staff? Why not leave it to the L&Der in the business/organisation to take care of it through training or other initiatives? Because the line manager is nearly always the first port of call for any questions or issues a direct report has. As such, the responsibility of being a line manager means there’s many things to take into account and be mindful of. The best phrase for being a line manager I have heard is they carry the responsibility of pastoral care for their direct reports. I think that captures the whole thing of being a line manager really nicely.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts that giving feedback is a key part of being a line manager. I’ve not yet written about why coaching is equally important. So here it is. In a recent CIPD learning and talent development survey, coaching still comes out as the top activity line managers can and should do to develop, motivate and engage their staff. All credit to the survey for highlighting this. Often, it’s seen as the responsibility of someone else in the organisation to make this happen – typically the L&Der. But the L&Der’s roles is to to just facilitate and enable the L&D to happen, either through interventions they have prescribed as approrpiate, or by involving leaders across the business to deliver tailored interventions.

Let’s first just be clear about what coaching is and what it can help with. Coaching is a methodology to help a member of staff arrive at their own conclusions. I hate sentences like that. They seem like they’re fluffy when they’re not. Let’s break it down using a model – GROW.
Goal – the first place to start in a coaching conversation is to understand what the coachee wants to get from a coaching conversation/session/relationship. This should be a searching conversation where the coach spends time asking questions about motivations, aims, and understanding what to focus on.
Reality – this is by no means the next step in the process, but it does help to understand other factors to bear in mind. Has the coachee considered the various implications of what they want to achieve? Do they have a plan for achieving their goal? Are they being realistic about achieving their goal and about learning how to achieve their goal?
Options – again, not linear but to be considered. In achieving the goal, what are the various options available to the coachee? Have they looked into various options or are they focusing on once path only? Why have they either chosen path (a) or not considered options (b) (c) and (d)? Do they know what is required of them to achieve their goal? Will they need to engage in other activities in order to achieve their goal?
Will – not necessarily last. What is their actual motivation for doing this activity? Have they thought things through with enough consideration that they can make a decision about what they want to do next? What support do they need? Who will be their ‘go to’ people to help maintain their motivation? Have they considered implications – financially, family, friends, work?
Those are brief paragraphs to provide an overview of how to have the right conversation. When line managers get this right, staff feel valued because they’re being given a chance to talk, be heard, and be supported. They’ll increase their discretionary effort they choose to exercise because they attach value to the organisation courtesy of the efforts of the manager. They’ll talk openly and positively about their organisation in differing ways to people they have regular contact with and contacts they make in their network. They’ll feel like they’re being developed by virtue of the time and effort you are giving them for their personal and professional development.