I’ve been thinking about how to coach employees when they ask for help my help. It seems simple – just give them the help they need, right? However, it reminds me about a recent experience where I was asking for help from an expert.
I have been on a health kick recently with the goal of reinventing myself. A stronger, happier, and more confident me is the ultimate goal. I have been working out, had laser eye surgery, and even started a daily skincare routine! With all of this, there was one thing about me that I wanted to change- my laugh lines!
I laugh a lot and smile all the time. I do have a pretty great life. There are lots to be happy about. Nevertheless, I decided to talk to a doctor about reducing those laugh lines a bit. I’m a single guy, still have to date, and albeit vein, I want to make the best first impression.
So, I booked an appointment and visited one of Vancouver’s many local cosmetic clinics. When the doctor arrived, she looked at my laugh lines and told me about injectables and how I could reduce them. It sounded okay and was precisely what I was thinking about. I started to feel excited! Hmmm, maybe I will be the “hot guy” around town! Well, as fast as my ego was inflating, a million pins came to pop my bubble all at once.
“Frown for me. Oh, yes, you have profound frown lines on your forehead for someone your age.” Apparently, I am aging at super speed, and there is a giant cavernous hole on my forehead, similar to the Grand Canyon. If it continues like this, I will sell tours and sightseeing passes shortly.
“If you really want to get rid of that tired look, we can help with that.” I just slept for 9 hours! I didn’t even realize that I looked tired. So, if someone asks me if I am tired now, I have to say, “No. That’s just my face.”
“Botox can get rid of those wrinkles on your nose and close up your pores.” I didn’t even know you could have nose wrinkles. Add those to my crater-like pores; I will soon take on the moon face nickname.
“We can get rid of your muffin top.” I was wearing a button-down shirt; I don’t even own anything called a muffin top.
“You must grind your teeth, you have lost a lot of enamel.” All of those fake compliments my dentist gives me about my great smile! I had a dentist appointment last week, I guess I left my enamel there.
As the consultation went on, I started to get depressed. I realized that I would no longer be able to live in my apartment near the beach. First, all that sun (I was told I had sun damage) is not good for a troll like me. Secondly, I would need to move and take up residence under a bridge or drainpipe. I hate drainpipes; they smell! Maybe I could get a Darth Vader helmet and hope to blend in.
So, after all of the punches, with my head held low, I quickly left the clinic and started thinking about how I would pay for all the work I needed. It was a long walk home, and I figured I would enjoy what was left of my time in the daylight. I was soon to become a creature of the night!
During the walk, I caught my reflection in a window. Wait! I don’t seem so bad. I looked up, and to my surprise, no one was running in terror! Someone even smiled at me. Maybe I’m not a troll after all!
So, if I’m not the problem, what is? It got me thinking about my consultation and how intense the experience was. Did I really need all of that information? Were there things that could have been left unsaid?
6 Coaching Tips
Creating a coaching plan for your team.
We can learn a lesson from this experience on how to coach employees, especially when they come to us asking for advice. Here are a few simple steps to remember when you are asked for your opinion as a leader or coach:
1. Advise on only what you are asked about.
When someone asks for your help or opinion, try to stick to what they are asking about. We know that this can be difficult. Maybe there are so many tips that you can provide as an expert. All too often, we can be tempted to give some “extra” advice or pointers. We don’t want to overwhelm someone or make them feel like they are a failure.
Let’s be honest- unsolicited advice can feel good to give but isn’t always received well. Licensed psychologist Sharon Martin from Psych Central states, “Unsolicited advice often feels critical rather than helpful.” She also highlights how this can undermine problem-solving efforts. If you want team members to be independent, grow, and learn independently, help where needed and allow them to progress by establishing their learning methods.
2. Give people time to think about what you are saying.
Let people sit with your advice and digest what you are telling them. At my appointment, I felt pressured to act now and deal with my “moon face”, but that was really something I would need to think about. Many team members will want to investigate, think about, and even come back with follow-up questions. Are they going to be in shock or stressed after a conversation? Allow them to process. When thinking about how to coach employees effectively, time is critical. Schedule follow-up. How often has someone shown you how to do something and expected you to be perfect from that moment? Unrealistic expectations won’t help employees grow. Read more about the learning cycles to think about your approach.
“Try it out, and let’s meet up tomorrow and see how things are going.”
Knowing they are supported in their efforts from their managers, employees will have more confident and be willing to act without the worry of making mistakes.
3. Don’t be overly critical.
Think about what you say and how you say it when considering how to coach employees respectfully! When someone seeks your advice, don’t criticize something they are or are not doing. This is not the time. If they are seeking help, be gentle and encouraging. Don’t be selfish! When team members come to you for help, prioritize their needs and questions instead of making it about yourself.
If we are too critical, it might stop them from asking for help in the future. If there is something else you want to review with them, schedule a meeting to review it later. Introduce critiques little by little!
4. Point out the positives and acknowledge progress.
When thinking about how to coach employees, don’t forget to point out the great things someone has done or the progress being made. We often are quick to correct, but slow to congratulate. Team members may be overly self-critical and fail to recognize progress on their own when coming to us for help.
“You are learning at a swift pace! This doesn’t normally come so quickly for new team members. You are doing great!”
Not everything has to be perfect, and any progress is a positive thing. Don’t let team members forget this.
5. Avoid control and empower your team!
It’s natural to want to take charge and quickly fix everything, especially when time is of the essence. However, as leaders, it’s essential to consider how we coach our employees and what message we are conveying. Does our approach foster dependency or empower team members? A good leader will inspire their team to act independently and provide support along the way. There are simple ways to cultivate empowerment when thinking how to coach employees, such as:
- Mistakes are cool! Tell team members that it’s okay to make a mistake! If they have a fear of making a mistake, it can stop them from really trying. Let them know that it’s okay in your eyes.
- Resources. Too many organizations have preferred systems and methods but need video, image, or written resources that document the process. It’s about time to ensure you have resources and standards in place.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. If you are a leader, you have the experience and knowledge in your pocket for when you get stuck! This may be different for your team members. Knowing about shortcuts, alternatives, and options can take the stress off someone’s shoulders when learning something new. Knowing that they have options makes trying something more comfortable.
- Who you gonna call? Not Ghostbusters! It can be scary for team members to reach out to management whenever they have a question. Tell them about other coworkers they can speak with when they need help.
6. Recruit outside help.
Sometimes, information and advice hit differently when it comes from a neutral third party. This is where third-party training companies and expert coaches can help with development. Rather than you trying to figure out how to coach employees all the time, take some of the pressure off. A coach can help a team achieve learning goals through open conversations.
For example, our customers use our custom training and mystery shopping services to provide valuable feedback to their team members. Since we are an external party, team members can ask questions and speak openly about their resistance to the process. It happens! Since we are training experts, we focus on the education of procedures and are experts on overcoming resistance.
Now is the time to act!
These are all simple steps, but sometimes we take them for granted. We just need to take off our manager hat and put on the training hat, especially when your team members are counting on us!
What about me? Ultimately, I have decided that living as a troll under a bridge or covering my face with a giant helmet isn’t for me. I just have to accept that I no longer have to dress up for Halloween, and I might scare children sometimes. On a positive note, at least I won’t need a guard dog!