By Guy Harris
Coaching team members, improving performance, and confronting challenging behaviors are among the most common concerns expressed by participants in our Bud to Boss workshops. While the best approach for a specific situation depends on more variables that I can address in this single post, there are three guiding principles that you can apply to almost any coaching conversation.
1. Focus on the future more than on the past
When you attempt to coach a person on their performance, it is both tempting and easy to focus the conversation on what happened in the past.The past is both observable and objective. It is what happened.
The problem with focusing on the past is that it is what happened – in the past. It is unchangeable. There is nothing that you or the other person can do to make it different. Coaching is about changing decisions, behaviors, and results. The only decisions, behaviors, and results you can change are in the future.
Looking at the past to extract lessons is valuable. Focusing on the past is useless. When you coach your team members, focus on the future more than you focus on the past.
2. Talk about what TO do rather than what NOT to do
Another temptation in coaching is to tell people what NOT to do, and that is misdirected focus.
For example, when I was learning to drive, my driving instructor told me to look where I wanted the car to go. If I look at the road, I stay on the road. If I look at the trees, I drift towards the trees. Focusing on what NOT to do is a bit like looking at the trees while driving rather than keeping your eyes on the road.
It is more powerful and helpful to talk with people about what TO do in the future than it is to talk with them about what NOT to do.
3. Recognize effort and progress
Great leaders expect excellence, and they push for it consistently. They can even get frustrated when their team falls short. In the pursuit of excellence, remember that excellence and perfection are two different things, though.
Excellence is “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Perfection is “the condition of being free from flaws and defects.” It is possible to be both imperfect and excellent at the same time.
As people make progress, they need encouragement and hope to continue their growth. You can provide that encouragement and hope by recognizing they have made progress even if they are not perfect.
Coaching people on their performance is a complex subject with many variables, what ifs, and special circumstances. Every situation is different, and most situations share common threads. If you will keep these three ideas top-of-mind as you coach your team members, you will make progress towards excellence in the most common situations.