My client Gerry thinks he’s unappreciated at work. The truth of the matter is that his boss just isn’t very good at communicating his praises to him. Angela is calling a divorce lawyer this week–her husband won’t talk about their problems. John and Dave work in the same team and unbeknownst to each other, they’ve done the same task. Gina is frustrated that her boss keeps changing his mind on that project he’s asked her to do. That’s because she has no clarity around what he’s really asking for. I’m pretty sure by now; you’re clueing in to the fact that in all these examples, communication is the broken factor and is reducing relationships and success, delaying results and causing conflict. If communication is so darn important, why then are we simply so bad at it? Here are some theories as to why:
“You’re fired!” has ceased to be just a popular realty show tagline and has been echoing around boardrooms across the world. As a result, those souls left behind are shouldering the extra work. Since most people don’t one day wake up and say “I’ve got more work than ever, so I’m going to change the way I work, the way I look at things and the way I communicate”, they end up being time starved and exhausted. The new corporate soldier doesn’t realize that not only has the landscape changed even the war is different.
When was the last time you asked people you manage what their life’s greatest wish was? Do you even know the answer to that question for yourself? When did “how are you?” become a greeting that expected no serious answer in return? We take shelter in the pretense that it’s too personal and politically incorrect to ask such things of each other. As a result the deeper conversations are left off for what I call “filler talk”–empty, meaningless ways to communicate without really saying anything of substance.
The Knee Jerk Response
Most scuba students have trouble sinking to the bottom of the ocean when they’re first learning how to dive. When I was a newbie treading water and preparing to descend, my instructor (who should’ve known better) went down ahead of me and thinking to help, pulled me down by my legs under the water. Little did she know that I hadn’t inserted my regulator in my mouth and swallowed so much water that I thought I was going to drown! It was her knee jerk reaction to a problem she thought she’d seen before, to provide a quick solution to ‘help’ me.
Many managers are unfortunately in the same boat. They’ve been paid all their working lives to provide the solution. They are clueless about how to stop, take a step back, ask the people they manage to think of the true root of the issue and to work out a solution from multiple sources for a more efficient and effective result.
What’s the magic answer?
About 10 years ago, I discovered a different kind of consultant who called herself a ‘personal coach’. I had no idea what she did but I had heard such great things about working with her that I hired her to help me launch my own consulting business. Through a process called ‘the coaching conversation’, she made all my dreams come true in 1 short year. I myself became a certified coach and now help my clients use this process with their own teams to get better results.
Coaching is based on one founding principle: That all humans are creative and resourceful and hold the answers to any question they have to face. Imagine the power of that belief and imagine what it would do if applied to the people you manage or work with!
When a manager becomes a “Coach Manager”, with a few simple conversations, his staff can start to:
- Zone in on the true issues behind the problems
- Come up with viable solutions to surmount the issue quicker on their own
- Identify potential barriers to success earlier
- Think of resources to overcome barriers automatically
- Set up action steps with a timeline to get to the goal faster
What’s so great about this communication process? Well for one thing, it develops the people who work for you—pretty much without you doing anything more than applying the Coaching Conversation on a regular basis. The other is that your team gets more efficient and effective at handling unforeseen or chronic problems. Being able to communicate more effectively simply means an easier and more pleasurable life for all involved.
The Coaching Conversation in Action
“Chala, we’ve got a problem!” said a panicked Matt from shipping. “The studio won’t accept the shipment until 7pm since nobody will be there to pick it up, what should I do?” Had I not been a coach as well as a marketing manager at that moment, I could’ve offered at least 3 solutions of my own. Instead, I simply asked “what do you recommend?” There was a shocked silence on the phone, then in a happy voice Matt stated “I can call another courier, why didn’t I think of that?!” Sure enough, the problem was solved.
What is possible for you and your team if you learn a new way to talk to them? You will be pleasantly stunned that becoming a Coach Manager changes everyone and everything around you.
The Coach Manager Communication Process
I will be sharing this Coach Manager Communication process in steps with you in upcoming articles.
Until then, keep an open mind and an open door. Believe in the power of the spoken word to your fellow human beings in work and in life.
With kindness as always,