Becoming an effective coach is one of the most important skills a leader can master. While many leaders enjoy coaching high performers, handling employee excuses when things go wrong is a tougher coaching skill to learn.
Research shows that a good relationship between direct supervisors and their employees is essential to creating a positive work environment and retaining talented employees.
It’s important to address excuses that indicate potential problems or areas of concern rather than ignoring them. The coach and employee must be able to proactively deal with performance obstacles by working together towards common goals. Coaching skills help keep the relationship productive and focused on finding solutions. A truly effective coach is able to maintain open communication and help the employee navigate through difficult challenges.
In CMOE’s experience working with dozens of organizations from a variety of industries, our coaches have seen two types of excuses that arise during coaching discussions:
- A “Type I” excuse is a denial or rationalization provided by the employee.
- A “Type II” excuse is a legitimate concern or fear about the plan. These excuses may manifest in subtle ways or as non-verbal cues.
These two types of excuses must be managed in different ways. A Type I excuse doesn’t require much attention. A coach can simply move past them. Keep the conversation positive and focus on moving forward with a viable solution or plan. Type II excuses, on the other hand, are more serious, and coaches can’t afford to ignore them. As a coach, it’s important to listen carefully to concerns and fully understand any obstacles that may arise.
Ask questions to help the employee feel comfortable bringing his or her concerns out into the open. It may be helpful to acknowledge the difficulty of a project and ask the employee directly about potential issues. For example, you could say, “I know there are parts of this plan that may not be easy. What do you anticipate the major challenges to be?”
Open-ended questions like this one help the employee to accept responsibility for the plan (despite its potential obstacles) and focus on finding solutions. Once you understand the employee’s concerns, you can refocus the conversation on creative options or contingency plans.
You can offer good-faith, logical approaches to overcoming obstacles. For example, if an employee is struggling with resistance on a team, you might say, “I think if you met one-on-one with new team members, you could win them over.” You may also offer to step in and assist with a team meeting as needed.
Remember to show your support as the employee opens up and shares his or her fears and concerns. Your goal as the coach is to maintain positive energy and focus the conversation on ideas and strategies that will lead to success. This means taking the time to anticipate resistance and actively listen for potential concerns.
If you can learn to coach others effectively, you will be able to inspire greater levels of performance and retain talented employees. These skills will create a positive foundation for solving challenging problems and managing interpersonal issues on your team. To learn more about improving your coaching skills, contact CMOE.