As a leader/manager/supervisor in an organization, part of your responsibility, obligation and an implied (if not stated) expectation is to be a coach.
Recently I was asked a very valuable question about that role, and the reality that many leaders live in. The question came from someone registered for our upcoming 3 hour Livecast on April 17. Learn more and register here for free.)
Here is the question, verbatim:
I manage a small IT group. I haven't done coaching, and want to, but after 6 years in this position, how do I start subtly?
The person asking this question has learned that my opening statement is true. They want and need to coach. Yet time, habit and perhaps other things are hindering the “getting started.”
So, how would I answer this question?
The Importance of Starting
The person asking anonymously has figured out that they want to coach, so they see some importance, but to answer the question more broadly and completely, thinking about why starting is important.
If there are ongoing performance challenges, in order for the organization to be as successful as it could be, the performance changes need to take place. In order for that to happen, coaching will be required.
If there are performance challenges for some that aren’t being addressed, you are effectively lowering the performance bar for everyone – it will get increasingly harder to hold even some people to a higher standard, and so growth and improvement are very unlikely.
If you want to be promoted yourself, you must leave the group better than you found it, and so your own promote-ability may well rest on your ability to effectively coach your team.
In short, deciding to coach has positive benefits for the team, the organization and yourself.
So, you want to start, but it is hard (or you would have already done it). What are the barriers that get in the way of starting?
The Barriers to Starting
There could be as many barriers as there are people in this situation, but I believe there are some that are common and tough to overcome. The toughest one of all is to see the need for coaching – in our case, that need is already identified.
• Time. “I’m already busy and I don’t know when I will have time to do coaching. I know I need to, but I don’t know when I will get to it.”
• Habit. “It’s hard to break a habit. I mean, I know I need to coach, but I am pretty comfortable with the way I do my work.”
• Fear. “I’m not sure how good of a coach I would be. I know it is important, but I’m afraid I will screw it up.”
• Relationships. “What will people think about me if I start coaching them on stuff that they have been doing for a long time?”
How to Start
Now we can get to the heart of the question . . . how to coach, after not coaching for so long . . .
The question closes with the word subtly – “how do I start subtly?”
The Chinese parable says there are two best times to plant a tree, 50 years ago and today. That is the situation we find ourselves in now – maybe we “should have” started coaching six years ago, and since we didn’t, we should start today.
I suggest you be supportive, caring and clear, but I don’t think you need to be subtle, covert or cautious.
The way to start coaching is to start coaching.
And you start coaching by making the expectations clear - about what your role and goals are, and what the coaching is going to be about.
It should be done in a conversation so people can better understand your motives and goals, and you can surface and understand their concerns, questions and resistance. Once that stage is set, begin the process of helping people grow and improve – in other words, start coaching.
If you have several people that you want/need to coach, you might have part of the conversation with the entire group or team, and save the specifics for meetings with each person; but the goal here is to let people know that you want to help them improve, that you see that as an important part of your job, and that you plan to take action on that role moving forward.
The barriers and concerns about starting coaching when you haven’t been doing it are real, and while I don’t mean to discount them, in the end you start coaching by . . .
1. Deciding to do it.
2. Making your purpose clear to those you will coach.
3. Setting (new) clear expectations.
4. Start coaching in a supportive and helpful way.
The best leaders are coaches too – and there is no time like today to start coaching more frequently, and more effectively.

Author's Bio: