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Six Keys for Helping Supervisors Coach Employees


Well-coached employees are creative forces who can be counted on to provide solutions that their supervisors haven't considered.

If you consult with or oversee supervisors, then you should know how to help these leaders develop coaching skills. It's not that difficult, but there are a few keys worth considering.

Being able to help a supervisor become a coach will increase the value of your position and and reduce risk in your organization.

1. Teach supervisors to properly ascertain their employees' strengths and weaknesses.
You may have heard that good managers focus only on employees' strengths. Not true. Without a concerned and thoughtful examination of the supervisee's strengths and weaknesses, the manager or supervisor will not be able to formulate a coaching relationship that produces positive results.

2. Help supervisors identify "barriers" to success. These barriers are things that prevent success -- physical limitations or a lack of resources, education, information, training, a positive attitude, initiative, and more.

Essentially barriers can be physical, emotional, environmental, institutional, informational, developmental, etc.

Good communication is a key to any relationship between a supervisor and an employees, but with regard to barriers, encourage supervisors to discuss the broad definition of what a barrier means as shown above.

The supervisor, of course, does not become a therapist or diagnostician but instead relies on what can be observed or provided by the employee.

3. Help the supervisor determine what motivates employees. Motivators will be unique to each employee.

There are many types of motivators. Google a list of them. Such a list will help a supervisor have an awareness for they actually are while being able to spot them in his or her interaction with employees.

Once understood, motivators become powerful tools for helping employees remain enthusiastic about learning and coping with change. Help supervisors learn how to tailor incentives to match these motivators.

One important note: one of the most overlooked motivators—and an almost universally appreciated one—is good communication between the supervisor and the employee. I mentioned this above, but it can't be overstated. Hint: You may need to model or help supervisors become better communicators. 

From the employee's perspective, an awareness of feeling plugged into what the supervisor wants and is looking for is, by itself, a solid motivational force. Best of all, it's free. Everyone wants to be "tight" with one's supervisor.

4. Help supervisors learn to be good communicators of the organization's strategic direction and the company's goals.

Without this information, employees simply cannot put their roles in perspective and generate the motivation necessary to feel that they are partnering with their organizations to reach the mountain top.

By getting supervisors to help employees "understand the bigger picture," you are helping them with one of the most crucial steps in the coaching process.

5. Help supervisors learn to communicate goals to employees while leaving the "how to" up to the individual worker. This is an important skills--proper delegation.

This especially means staying removed from the employee's field of view as assignments are tackled yet being available if the employee has a need. This type of relationship takes practice and sometimes guts.

From a distance, a good coach provides guidance, context, and perspective while avoiding dictating a "set" process.

6. Help supervisors develop the art of knowing when to intervene, for example, when a stumbling block is perceived or communicated by the employee that impedes a project.

It is especially important to intervene when an error could create substantially negative consequences, either to the employee or to the company as a whole. In such instances, early intervention may need to take place. The point here, however, is to avoid a pattern of jumping in and undermining the employee.

Successful coaching helps employees understand goals and expectations so that they may act instead of waiting for instruction. Witness this initiative and you've hit the mark on help your employees profit from coaching.

Because coached employees don't have every solution dictated to them from above, they tend to take greater ownership of their work and demonstrate greater responsibility than employees who are not coached.

Coached employees are also better prepared to maximize their potential. With that, everyone wins.

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