If you were to review the memories of your youth, chances are there was a teacher, friend, family acquaintance or maybe a sports coach whose name you still remember.
You’ve interacted with scores of people over the years and their names and faces tend to fade. Yet, there is probably that one person who is indelibly imprinted in your mind, a unique individual who had a positive impact on your life, someone who played a key role in shaping the person you have become. A person who in some way acted as a coach to support your personal growth.
This same concept, coaching for success, should be alive and well at your utility companyif you wish to develop a team that creates a winning environment.
But wait, isn’t that what managers do every day? Aren’t managers also coaches?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a manager is a person who conducts business or households while a coach is one who instructs or trains a team. You could make an argument that they are really one and the same. My belief is that they can be embodied in the same being, but the approach they take and the skills they use when working with their staff determines whether that person is a manager or a manager who also is a great coach. A manager achieves day-to-day results, often relying heavily on himself or herself to figure everything out. The manager who knows how to coach helps his staff develop the skills and talents to support the overall mission of not just that manager but, in the bigger picture, of the company.
How would your employees respond if you asked each of them if they felt they had a coach at your utility, someone who was there to support their growth at your company?
Giving supervisors and managers the skills to be effective coaches for customer service reps and all other employees who would benefit from that approach is critical to decreasing employee turnover, increasing employee morale and exceeding customers’ expectations for service.
Consider these ideas for improving the coaching skills of your management team:
Give managers the tools for the job. In a research study conducted by InTelegy Corp., ineffective management and processes was one of the most common reasons for people leaving a company. Employees felt supervisors received no skills training on how to manage people, skills like leadership, motivation, coaching, development and discipline. Hire a specialist in the coaching field who can provide your managers with the skills to be more effective coaches. Check out www.coachu.com or the online or CD-ROM learning programs that offer those types of classes.
Understand learning styles. We all learn and absorb information differently. A good coach understands the learning style of the individual they’re coaching. If someone is a visual learner, they learn by what they see or read. Auditory learners learn by listening. Kinesthetic learners learn by feeling or experience. We all learn using a combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities but, for most of us, one of those styles is dominant. An individual will learn and retain more if information is presented in the learning style that they are accustomed to.
Understand individual values. A good coach knows that each of the players on their team is an individual and that each has different values when it comes to motivation and encouragement. The style that a coach uses to motivate and inspire one individual may not work for anyone else on the team.
Each of us has our ownbeliefs and values concerning what is important and what motivates us to improve our skills. Managers who are good coaches make sure they invest in one-on-one dialog with the individuals on their team. A good coach asks questions, listens to understand what is important to each person and then incorporates that knowledge into their coaching style for each individual.
It starts at the top.Coaching isn’t confined to middle management. The concept of coaching for success must start at the very top of the company. Does senior management at your utility model the skills of a good coach? Do they recognize the rest of the management team for their hard work? Do they take the time to coach their managers on how to be more effective coaches for their employees?
If top management isn’t setting the example by being good coaches for their own team, it will be difficult to get the rest of the team to make the investment of their time and energy.
Recognize players on the team. Good coaches don’t stand on the sideline and only speak when the play goes wrong. They shout encouragement day in and day out.
Words like “you’re doing a great job,” “thank you for that extra effort” and “you are important to our team,” when said with sincerity, make an individual feel they are part of something. They feel like they belong. It’s human nature to want to belong. We may not want to admit it, but most of us enjoy it when someone pays attention to how we are doing. Showing appreciation and encouraging employees are two skills that every coach should demonstrate to their team every single day!
Acknowledge those small improvements. Good coaches also look for the small things that individuals can improve. John Wooden was one of the greatest collegiate basketball coaches in history. Wooden kept diaries on each of his players. He kept track of the small improvements he felt they could make and then, at the end of practice, he would share these thoughts with each player.
Wooden’s unique insight and his unprecedented achievements – a .806 winning percentage, 19 conference championships, 10 national championships, seven straight national titles and four unbeaten seasons – have stood the test of time. A good coach works daily to improve the small things that help the team perform at its best.
Is he or she the right coach for the team? Just because someone is great at getting the job done doesn’t mean they are good at developing people. Perhaps a better question to ask is whether your managers have the aptitude to be good coaches for their employees. Do they have a feel for how to coach, develop and encourage other people, to strengthen the talent and skills of others?
While there is no fail-safe methodology to hiring the right people, you can improve your odds greatly if you use a personality-profile tool to help identify the strengths of your management staff and the areas where they can improve.
With a clear picture of their abilities, it is easier to educate them on how to be a better coach. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your managers will help increase their effectiveness when it comes to coaching the rest of the staff. Check out www.hiringsolutions.net. They have a variety of tools to assist in this area.
Keep employees in the loop. Are your managers keeping their staff involved? Employees want to feel like they are part of the team – again, that part of us that likes to belong. Ask for their input and ideas on how to improve performance, increase productivity and decrease costs.
Most employees don’t have a clue about what it costs the company to handle a customer call, what it costs to acquire a customer or what it costs to lose a customer. Oftentimes, front-line employees can identify problems or weak systems. The funny thing is, they usually have the easiest and most cost-effective solutions.
Employees are in the trenches every day. They know what works well and what doesn’t.Keep them involved, share the numbers with them and let them know what it costs to run your company. They’ll have more respect and a keener understanding as to what their contribution can be.
A manager with strong coaching abilities can be invaluable in retaining and motivating your employees and helping them develop their skills. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a John Wooden coaching our team? What if someone asked your employees to identify that one person who played a big part in their growth and the response was, “There was this coach at this company and . . .”
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skills training for utilities. He can be reached at 888-644-5499 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Measure-X Web site at www.measure-x.com.