I like to think of the main purpose of a manager as being, “to build a machine of people.” The machine then produces the product or delivers the service that you’re there for. Some people describe this as working ON the business rather than IN the business.
People and Systems
The machine of people consists of the right people, motivated and connected by efficient systems or procedures so they all work well together. Ideally, the people in the machine would all be great. Managers who feel insecure and want to be better than their people have completely missed the point: If your people are even better than you, then you’ll get great results and that’s good for everyone.
A key role of leadership is to develop the team members and help them become the best that they can be; in other words, coach them. To be a great coach, you don’t have to know everything, you just have to help your people to learn, partly from you and from others, as well as from experience—you can make it possible for them to have learning experiences. So, what does the coaching process consist of?
The Coaching Process
It’s best to think of the coaching process as two dimensions: how hard a job is and how good someone is at doing it. If you’re setting out to coach someone on something pretty big—for example, how to sell or how to operate a machine—you can first divide the job up into parts, probably in increasing order of difficulty, so the person can see their learning journey: “First, we’ll cover how to get appointments, then we’ll cover how to establish the customer’s needs,” etc.
Next, you teach them each part, moving through the following five stages of learning:
1. You show them how to do it.
2. They try it while you watch and check if everything is okay.
3. They do it without having you watch them, but you come back and check quite often if everything is okay.
4. They do it without having you watch them, but you come back and check occasionally if everything is okay.
5. They do it without having you watch them, but you are available for help if they call.
You might be teaching them several parts of the job at once, so some of the easier parts will be at “check occasionally” or “available for help,” while some of the harder parts might still be at “show,” “watch,” or “check often.”
This is a systematic process that both parties would agree to at the start and monitor, ideally with a chart, so everyone knows where they are on the learning journey.
Remember that although the task seems easy to you, it’s new to them and might be scary, as well as difficult. So, be patient with any failures, and be supportive and encouraging, focusing with plenty of praise on the times when they get it right. Move swiftly from any failures with, “No worries, it’ll take a bit of time to become perfect. The main thing is: What have you learned? Do you know what you’ll do differently next time?”
Homework: Think about all the people you have, and then think of something new that each of them could learn. Break it into parts to form a learning journey, and then start teaching them on the first part, gradually bringing them up through the levels.
See you tomorrow when we’ll be looking at team meetings.
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