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Techniques of Effective Business Coaching, Part 1

The autocratic and directive style of management has its place, typically in times of crisis or imminent danger. However, in more normal times (and sometimes even in the midst of crisis) it is wise to be a coach and mentor to your employees or subordinates. To that end, in this article, and the three that follow, you’ll find some basic techniques used by effective coaches. In these articles, the word “coach” can be construed as manager, team leader, supervisor etc.

Develop goals and objectives. The team and its individual members will work better—much better in fact, if they have a goal or target in mind. Without a clear understanding of what they’re working for, work becomes aimless and demoralizing.

Set high but realistic standards. Setting standards that can’t be met is equally demoralizing. Not for a moment am I suggesting that standards should be set for the weakest team member. Rather, challenge the team to achieve, and you might be surprised at how well they perform and how much they will grow.

Have clear-cut assignments with milestones and deadlines. Mault’s Maxim of Management is, “What Gets Measured Gets Done.” Be sure your instructions are clear and well understood. Don’t ask: “Everybody get that?” Do ask: “What do you understand the assignment to be, when must you report, when must it be completed?” Once you’ve got that feedback—and only then—you will know that you have been understood.

Be forward thinking. Anticipate problems and opportunities; one of the key roles of management is just that. Succeeding in managing means dealing with ambiguity. But by looking ahead and sorting out possibilities, one can often avoid crises and adversity and thereby maintain morale and set an example of professionalism.

Plan for various outcomes. When you’re looking ahead and anticipating, be sure to anticipate that the one particular outcome you’re aiming for may not be realized. Think of the several possibilities that may result from your planning and actions. And, have at least an outline of alternate actions for each.

Maintain your composure at all times. We’re all familiar with a certain college basketball coach and several NFL coaches who are famous, or perhaps infamous, for their tempers. Would you want to be on the receiving end of one of those tantrums? Is this the way you like to be treated? Probably not, so keep your cool no matter the circumstance and your team will have much more confidence in you and will likely perform much better.

Eliminate either/or thinking or discussions.There are few scenarios in which there are only two mutually exclusive outcomes. With your team members, look for a variety of ideas, solutions and opportunities. It is sometimes wise to frame the discussion in those two possible, mutually exclusive outcomes and then make it clear that the real solution likely lies somewhere, not necessarily at the mid-point, between the two.

L. Douglas Mault is president of Executive Advisory Institute, Portland, Ore. The Web site is; he can be reached at (888) 428.3331.

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