Part of the challenge of advising employees is giving them insights that stick. All too often, well-intentioned leaders dish out wisdom on the spot that starts with, “Here’s what you should do…”
When others seek your guidance, shine the spotlight on them. How? Pose a series of penetrating questions:
What’s on your mind? This icebreaker gives the respondent wide leeway to go in any direction. You also come across as friendly and nonthreatening by starting with such a casual, general inquiry.
And what else? In some cases, employees begin by giving a guarded answer. Your willingness to ask for more can prod them to reveal what’s really on their mind.
What’s the real challenge here for you? With this question, you shift the focus to the core issue that the individual faces. This helps both of you separate the trivial from what’s most important.
What do you want? Employees appreciate the chance to open up about their needs and aspirations. It also helps you avoid giving misguided advice based on faulty assumptions.
How can I help? Again, you don’t want to guess how you can coach someone to improve. It’s smarter to allow the employee to specify how you can help.
If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? You need to confirm that you’re not spreading yourself too thin by agreeing to coach—and you need to make sure the employee has set priorities as well. You don’t want either of you to become suddenly overwhelmed or embroiled in a fruitless, time-consuming pursuit.
What was most useful for you? Learning from every coaching session helps refine your skills. Invite feedback so that you can gain tools to improve in the future.
— Adapted from “The Coaching Habit,” Michael Bungay Stanier, Box of Crayons Press.