How to be a Good Coach: Tips for Employee-Focused Leaders

Tom Walter Care for people, Leadership

Tom Walter is a “serial entrepreneur” who has launched nearly 30 companies. He is the CEO of Tasty Catering, named one of Winning Workplaces best small companies in 2010. He is the author of the forthcoming book, It’s My Company Too! This post is republished with permission from Serial Entrepreneur


Being a good coach means putting others before yourself and always making decisions for the good of the team.  Here are a few tips on how to take coaching principles into the workplace in order to be an employee-focused leader.

This is the most important part of communication.  Part of your job as a leader is to optimize your employees’ time at work.  This might mean allowing them to vent for a few minutes to you in the morning if it helps them clear their heads and get on with the rest of their day.  Otherwise, they might have a nagging thought constantly interrupting their work, or worse, they might end up complaining to a co-worker and simultaneously disrupt other people’s work.
Show your employees that you support their decisions.  When your teammates know that you have their backs, they are more empowered to make decisions on their own and challenge themselves to take on more of a leadership role.
As a leader with experience, offer your point of view when you see employees faced with certain dilemmas.  Coach them to a higher emotional intelligence and toward greater problem-solving skills, and offer them perspective when their particular dilemma grows out of proportion.

Put yourself in their shoes
Things that might seem minor or unimportant to you could seem to be life and death situations for your employee, depending on what is important to them at their life stage. Not everyone is happily married, happily single, happily dealing with the pressures of children, wanting children, dating, etc… there are hundreds of life situations that rank in various levels of importance to each employee, and each employee can see his or her personal life in drastically different ways.  Don’t underestimate the effect a breakup, a death, a divorce, a move, a birth or other life-changing things can have on a person’s work.
Praise and recognition may not seem important to you, but whatever you do, don’t overlook the impact a simple “job well done” can have on your workforce.  Recognizing teams will encourage teamwork and increase healthy competition within an organization, and recognizing individuals will encourage leadership and raise the performance bar.  Nothing inspires or re-motivates team members more (usually) than recognition.  Coming from a leader, any kind words you say will be remembered ten times longer than any negative words you say.
When appropriate, do not give answers to questions asked by staff.  Ask them to provide three alternative solutions to the question and discuss why.  Over time, they will consistently have the correct decision.  This builds efficacy within all members of the team and lowers the coach’s interruptions.  You can’t call a time out to solve every issue.
Keep calm
The age of the Mike Ditka approach to football management is slowly slipping away.  These bombastic managers are being replaced by cool-headed coaches who understand that “yelling” just creates a negative impact within the majority of the team.  And, if yelling is necessary, then you have the wrong team.
Build self-esteem
Create metrics—call them the RBIs, ERAs, TDs or PPG of the office or floor—with the team and team members that will allow the individual to realize when they are doing well.  Cap this off with recognition and reward for hitting the metrics, and both the employee and the organization grow.  Every major sport has metrics that allows every team member, teammate and fan to know if someone is doing well.
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