How to Drive Employee Engagement and Performance
There’s quite a hype around “building a coaching culture” in organizations these days. And indeed using coaching techniques as a leader can be a fantastic way to
- develop your employees
- drive employee engagement
- boost individual and team performance
in your organization.
First of all, you need to decide if coaching is the right approach in your specific situation. Emergencies and crises are not ideal for applying coaching. When the house is on fire, instant and clear directives are needed, not coaching. Coaching techniques are useful when there is time to have a conversation with your employee without any pressure. And this can work wonders.
What many managers underestimate is the importance of a framework for coaching. To make your coaching efforts successful, you need a structure. Without a structure, you are at risk of using coaching techniques randomly, leading to random results.
The GROW Coaching Model provides a simple yet powerful structure that helps you to use coaching skills as a leader more effectively.
GROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and Way Forward (sometimes referred to as Will).
Consider coaching as a journey. You begin with the end in mind by exploring where your “coachee” (your employee) wants to go.
Goal: What do you want to achieve?
In a corporate context, certain goals will be a given. There may be very little room for negotiating EBIT DA, cash flow, or quality metrics. But within this context, you may want to give employees room to decide for themselves how they want to achieve a particular goal. A 10% increase in EBIT could be obtained by focusing either on cost savings or on increasing revenue. Does it matter to you as the boss how people get there as long as they are hitting the numbers?
Giving people the freedom to choose how to achieve a goal (and ideally with who and when) can lead to massive boosts in employee motivation and ultimately results. (See also: “How to Motivate People: The Power of Autonomy”)
Reality: What is happening?
You begin the journey with the end in mind. The starting point is equally important. And you might be surprised how often even seasoned executives underestimate the need for a proper analysis of the status quo. Knowing where you want to be in the future is critical, but how can you get there if you don’t know where you are coming from? Therefore, in the Reality phase, you thoroughly examine your current business environment, your organizational situation, and of course, the situation of the individual you’re coaching.
Options: What could you do?
Now that you and your coachee know destination and starting point, it’s time to explore the options of getting from where you are to where you want to be. In coaching, we often refer here to “opening the coaching funnel.” Apply “divergent thinking”: open up to new ideas, think out of the box, brainstorm together. And remember, in brainstorming there is no judgment. Allow crazy ideas!
Keep in mind that you, as the boss, are a partner at eye level in this process. Your role is to coach and ask lots of powerful questions rather than providing answers. Step out of your comfort zone as a boss and dare not knowing.
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” —“Coaching for Performance” by John Whitmore
Way Forward: What will you do?
After you have opened the coaching funnel and explored all options, it’s time to narrow down the choices. Finally you need to select which of the many alternatives you have elaborated together (more precisely: which you have helped your coachee to elaborate) is the most promising one, the one that will lead to success. The art for you as the boss is once more to hold back with your own opinion, even when you get all excited and can’t sit still because you think you have figured it all out already.
First of all, thinking you know better does not mean that, in fact, you do know better. (See also: “Trap #8 That Can Sabotage Your New Executive Career — Believing Your Own Hype“) Second, the best solution for you is not necessarily the best solution for your employee. Your best solution will be based on your skills, experiences, beliefs, values, etc. Your employee is an entirely different person, and all that matters is what works best for them.
Furthermore, you want your employee to feel fully accountable. You want them to be 100% committed and get the desired results, no matter what. And that’s so much more likely to happen when they propose a solution themselves rather than following someone else’s (your!) solution which they might not completely buy in to.
You now have a powerful coaching framework at hand, which will make your coaching much more effective and successful than random coaching activities here and there. You can apply the GROW Coaching Model in various ways. You can use a full GROW cycle within a single coaching session: you begin by identifying the goals, and you conclude the session with defining specific action steps and timelines.
You can also use GROW as a framework for the overall coaching process over an extended period of time. E.g., you might need more than one session to work on any of the four GROW stages. Perhaps it takes a while to explore all possible Options or to choose the best one over more than one “Reality” session.
Later sessions naturally may turn out to be iterative in nature: you follow-up how the action plan which you defined in the previous session has been progressing, you explore options for the next steps, and you determine the next set of specific actions, and then you follow up again next time.
“Coaching is the art of asking the right questions,” as I once put it. Naturally, when you begin using coaching techniques as a leader, you may struggle with choosing the best “powerful questions.” Therefore, next time we look into what questions you can use in each stage of the GROW Coaching Model.
This article is dedicated to Sir John Whitmore (16 October 1937 – 28 April 2017), a pioneer of executive coaching. He was the author of “Coaching for Performance”, which introduced the world to the GROW Model.
Would you like to develop people, drive employee engagement, and get better results? Let’s talk! Contact me now for an individual consultation without any obligations:
phone: +66-2 107 2025