People often comment to me that they are “uncomfortable” coaching employees when it comes to unacceptable performance issues. While this is not uncommon, it often occurs because people haven’t developed their coaching skills and abilities. When coaching, especially around performance issues, it is so important to address an issue when it arises rather than waiting. By waiting to address the issue, you run the risk of making the coaching conversation more difficult. Chances are the behavior will be repeated and will be assumed acceptable.
In order to become comfortable with coaching, I usually offer two simple suggestions to get things moving:
Suggestion 1: Prepare yourself when the situation is more difficult. A little preparation will go a long way in helping ensure a coaching conversation is effective and doesn’t go off track.
Suggestion 2: Practice coaching where easy and basic opportunities arise and slowly work towards more complex opportunities.
By practicing the coaching process in easy opportunities and preparing for more difficult ones, you will develop your natural ability and the skills necessary to be a great and effective coach.
Example From My Youth
A close friend from my youth had a theory he used jokingly for a number of things in life. He called it the Hot Tub Theory. It goes something like this:
Pretend you have had a long hard day and you’re ready to soak your sore muscles in some hot water. You walk outside to your hot tub/spa. You don’t just throw yourself right into the water do you? No, you probably go through the following steps:
Step 1: You approach the hot tub and dip your toes in the water to check the temperature. Is it too hot or just right?
Step 2: You step down into the first level of the hot tub (about knee deep). Feels good doesn’t it.
Step 3: You slowly immense the remaining lower half of your body into the water. You’re about waist deep and it feels nice.
Step 4: You let your body adjust for a minute. In preparation for the next step, you might even splash a little water on your chest/stomach/arms so the heat isn’t an immediate shock to your upper body.
Step 5: Now, you’re fully immersed up to your neck. Ah, basking in the warmth. You feel comfortable, relaxed and happy. Everything seems good.
The point of the story is if you throw yourself in all at once, you might be burned or at least feel like you’re being burned. Take this theory to coaching. Ease yourself into the level of coaching you can comfortably engage in when possible. The same goes for coaching discussions, don’t just throw yourself right into the issue or problem at hand, but ease in. Ask how things are going, be supportive, address concerns and listen to the other person. Remember, an effective coach makes the discussion a two-way process. There just might be a side to the story you’re not aware of. By doing this, you’ll feel comfortable and confident in your skills.