Mobilising the Messy Analogue Moving Parts - Week 3: Coaching

Posted on February 18, 2020 at 09:30 AM

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Coaching and wellbeing.

In weeks 1 and 2 of our 6-week blog series we said that emotional intelligence and giving good feedback are two vital component parts to enabling talent management software to maximise the talents in your organisation. Week 3's 'moving part' is coaching - and as an important part of that - talking about health, wellbeing and work-life balance. 

So we are not going to be able to develop an army of elite executive coaches from our management population. It takes most people many years and an intense programme of study, supervised practice, more study and more years of practice to become a really effective coach.  Some of us wouldn’t get there if we tried.  But we can all get better at having coaching conversations, by developing the associated skills and by learning and deploying some simple frameworks that help us structure a dialogue in a way that helps the other person to take more ownership for solving their own problems, improving their performance, learning new things.  A popular tool for this is John Whitmore’s GROW which gives you a basic four-step framework for having better conversations around learning and performance.

Having said that a framework is helpful, coaching as a practice should help you to be flexible in the moment, pursue a conversation and help the individual work through things without having a clear agenda or a list of bullet points to work through.  It shouldn’t feel like a process, or be restrictive or limiting or manager-led.  There is a balance to be struck between being alive to what the individual needs and wants to talk about, and making productive use of check-in time.  In our software, you can provide helpful prompts, reminders and suggested questions for managers to refer to in preparation for check-ins, but probably one of the useful weapons in their armoury is active listening.  It takes time, focus and motivation to really listen to someone, and we can remove one of these excuses by scheduling and engaging in more frequent check-ins!

Talking about health, wellbeing and work-life balance

These three areas are increasingly becoming the concern and focus of many C-suites.  With organisations like Microsoft testing out a four-day workweek in Japan – and reporting an almost 40% rise in productivity – and many workers worldwide exploring the benefits of a reduced working week, flexible hours and homeworking, this is a trend that is likely to continue.  In the public sector, the rise of Mental Health First Aiders, flexible working champions, wellbeing networks and ‘great place to work’ initiatives, there is a lot of organisational support and infrastructure but it is still the domain of a manager to protect the wellbeing of his or her employees and we should ensure that they are equipped to have conversations about these topics.

A recent (October 2019) resource from Gallup cites one of the most important skills for managers when it comes to improving the work-life balance of employees is that of goal-setting.  We didn’t cite this as a separate skill here – partly because we’ve talked about it a lot before and partly because it underpins other practices mentioned here, such as delegation, coaching and – as it turns out – improving work-life balance.  The key seems to be realism: ensuring our goals, targets and objectives are realistically achievable and stretching-but-not-too-stretching is a tricky balance to achieve but one that can be helped by making it more employee-led.  Discuss goals with people - or perhaps better still - get them to set their own and review them as part of a check in.

It can be easy to avoid talking about health, wellbeing and work-life balance: many people feel awkward raising and discussing potentially sensitive topics, they might fear the consequences, or doubt their own ability to tackle them in an empathetic and supportive, but also a professional and constructive, way.  NHS Employers have a handy factsheet that helps you to prepare and think about talking about wellbeing at work, which is a useful resource even for those not working in the Health sector.  The Head Light Check In function enables you to create your own checklists, suggested questions or guidelines for managers to draw on whilst holding these conversations, acting both as a reminder that they need to be taking a holistic and person-centred approach to performance management and as a helpful resource for doing so.

Want to know more?

You'll find more about coaching in these recent blogs:

Next week's focus will be on helping managers to bring people together and creating a team identity.  

We hope you'll tune in then, but if this is not quite your thing then why not forward the link to a colleague who may like a read.

If you have any questions in the meantime do please get in touch.

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