Leadership and coaching go hand in hand. Often I hear managers telling employees what they need to do instead of coaching them. Reminding me of the old management style of “Do as I say, not as I do.” I was definitely raised with this style of management. Then once every ten years or so, I would come across a real leader and coach. They are the people that I visit in my head when I am looking for leadership and coaching guidance. It starts off with having the right mindset and looking at the potential in someone instead of what they can offer you now. Then building trust with your team by consistent communication, being open, showing warmth, telling the truth, being confident and most importantly getting vulnerable.
When you sit down to coach an employee, you start off by asking what they are looking for in their professional growth. Then you listen; really listen to them, for understanding, not to respond. Once you have a good understanding of what they want to focus on, you support them continually.
I had the great benefit of working with a leader just like this. His name is Kevin Cronin and at the time he was a regional manager for a restaurant group in San Francisco. When he hired me he said that he didn’t expect me to know everything, such as the importance of ordering the kid’s food first when a family sat down to eat together. Instead he said that he would show me those details to help grow my skills. Then he asked me what area of the industry that I wanted to focus on for my own growth. At the time it was my wine knowledge, being a restaurant manager in San Francisco at the age of 26, was a little intimidating to say the least. He gave me a simple wine book to support me on my journey. Then he sent me to the Sterling School of Hospitality and Wine in Napa Valley so that I could learn from professionals. He also gave me a beautiful bone designed wine opener that I still have and cherish. He knew that as a leader, if he invested in me, I would in turn be dedicated to my team and the company. When we put people first and support them, organically they are committed to you and the company. If they aren’t, you might want to reference Adam Grant’s TED Talk on givers or takers.
Once you feel confident on your coaching skills, because you have built trust and you are asking them instead of telling them, that is the time to also look at your level of empathy and compassion. Brene Brown has multiple videos on these concepts and the importance of them. It is being able to put yourself in one’s shoes, understanding what they are experiencing, yet it is also being able to be compassionate for their situation. This takes effort in showing them that you have heard them and acknowledging how challenging their situation might be. This also includes removing the silver lining. If you try to outline the positive of the situation, it takes away from really being empathetic. Instead, a simple response of, “I am so sorry you are going through this right now. It must be really hard.” I am always a fan of a big hug and sharing that I am here for them in any way I can be.
I coached an agent that struggled with empathy when we first started coaching together. I would listen to her recorded sales calls and hear snarky tones and then people would share that they just had a family member pass and she wouldn’t acknowledge what they shared at all. She explained that it made her feel uncomfortable to hear such news and she didn’t know how to react. So we talked about options of what she could have said. I shared with her the “7 Phrases That Convey Empathy” by Myra Golden:
- I can understand how frustrating it is when . . .
- I realize how complicated it is to . . .
- I cannot imagine how upsetting it is to . . .
- I know how confusing it must be when . . .
- We want to get to the bottom of this just as much as you do . . .
- If I were in your position I would feel just as you do . . .
- This is no more acceptable to us than it is to you . . .
These phrases helped her with empathy in all caller and guest situations. She also shared that she came from a work environment previously that was very business-like and empathy was never discussed. So we delved into the concept of vacation rental sales being an emotional sale, not a transactional sale. Her growth and understanding of empathy took months. She then had her father diagnosed with cancer and I do believe that played a part as well.
A good amount of research that I have read stated that empathy could not be taught; you were born with it or learned it at a young age. Either way, I knew that wasn’t true because I didn’t have any empathy in my 20’s. It wasn’t until my 30’s and after two years of huge losses, I became empathetic. Now this agent has a ton of empathy. I hear it in her tone in calls and I see it in her facial expressions during our coaching sessions. She actually coined the saying that I now use, “Empathize before educating.” This can be used in personal and professional settings and especially with people who are showing to be frustrated.
The next step is to ensure you are motivating your team. Yusuf Tokdemir wrote an article titled “Discover What Motivates People More Than Money” and his tips include the following:
- Recruit proper staff whose values align
- Apply a solid on-boarding program
- Give enough autonomy and task identity
- Develop and implement right and clear service standards
- Install proper technology that supports and improves their productivity
- Be clear, honest, authentic and generous with praise
- Effectively delegate authority and create responsibility
- Effectively communicate and show them the core purpose and values.
- Make your business strategy theirs
- Identify and handle conflicts sensibly, fairly and efficiently and seek the “win-win”
- Never criticize or correct in front of others
- Apply a good recognition and reward system
- Celebrate the success and share the disappointment.
- Be honest and transparent
- Create systems and norms that lead to a culture of candor within the organization
- Provide challenging assignments and offer opportunities for advancement.
Leadership is the foundation for being a good coach and leadership is not something that everyone is born with. It takes continual effort of self education and then really thinking through how you choose to respond to all situations.