Coaching can be unstructured and overcomplicated, which is why despite it being continually ranked the #1 Talent Management Best Practice, only 20% of organizations use coaching effectively.*
In actuality, coaching is simply the dialogue that connects us to how we do our work. Everyday we make decisions, commit to actions, and produce results through a series of conversations. What if you didn’t talk to your colleagues for one whole week? How about for an entire month? What would be the end result? Many of you may be thinking, “One whole day would be a huge relief!” It would be dreamy wouldn’t it? Eventually we’d start those conversations again to get our work done. If the conversations go well, they can make a huge difference. If they don’t, they can shut people down. Our success depends on the premises we hold about the individual before we have them.
Are our conversations working?
In Daniel Pink’s latest book, Drive, he writes about MIT management professor Douglas McGregor, who in the 1950’s argued that the problem with corporate leadership wasn’t so much its execution, as its current premise—that the people in their organizations fundamentally disliked work and would avoid it if they could (Theory X). This premise resulted in leaders believing that “most people must be coerced, controlled, directed and threatened to put forth adequate effort.” McGregor said there was a more accurate view of human performance—“taking an interest in work is as natural as play or rest, creativity and ingenuity are widely distributed in the population, and that under the proper conditions, people will accept and even seek responsibility” (Theory Y). He taught that the way to make organizations perform better was to shift the conversation starting point away from Theory X and toward Theory Y. If beginning with Theory X, the “mediocrity of the masses” belief would inevitably form and then mediocrity would become the ceiling on achievement. But if the starting point was Theory Y, the possibilities became vast—not simply for the individual’s potential, but for the company’s bottom line as well.
What we believe about our people has a huge impact on their performance. All organizations want greater engagement, which is ironically not about more extrinsic rewards, but rather about more attention…more conversations that work.
If you were watching, how would you know great conversation is happening? The same way you’d know if great coaching were happening:
- Two-way dialogue
- Genuine caring
- Careful listening
- Encouragement and support
- Results focused and results generating
We’re coaching 24/7 in our organizations because we’re always in dialogue. As a leader, ask yourself as you go about your daily activity this week:
- How are my conversations going?
- What are the first things I should start and stop doing to get hired as a coach?
- What do I personally need to pay attention to that would turn the light on for my people?
“Everyone has huge potential. It’s our job as coaches to get it out.” – Alan Fine