How Executives Can Overcome Top Coaching Challenges
The effectiveness of a team depends on all members excelling in their roles and bringing their best efforts to the table every day. Some people produce their best work naturally, without any oversight. Others, however, either cannot or will not do so without some guidance. It is incumbent upon the leader of that team to coach the members, at the individual as well as the group level, in order to encourage superior performance and a productive environment if they want to ensure the best results for the organization.
This isn’t always easy. There are many challenges that executives face in leading their teams. First, there are foundational coaching challenges, like establishing credibility. How do you make your team want to follow you? They certainly won’t do so if they don’t have faith in your leadership. So, how do you build their trust?
Even after a leader has convinced her team to trust and follow her, no team leader is worth her salt if she isn’t getting results. And how do you continue to get results day after day, week after week, month after month? The most effective leader is a steadfast coach who elicits the best performance out of her team, not just for short-term projects, but reliably over the long-term.
After working with hundreds of leaders across the globe, I have identified four key coaching challenges that leaders face in their efforts to bring out the best in their team members.
Coaching Challenge #1 – Establishing Credibility
For many leaders, establishing credibility among team members is a hurdle. How does a leader handle the reticence, or even the disregard, that his subordinates might have towards his leadership at the outset? Inexperienced leaders, especially, might struggle with insecurities if they are managing a team of very accomplished people.
There are several means of proving that you’re a capable captain. The easiest way, perhaps, is by sheer enthusiasm and dogged determination. Members of a team respond eagerly to a passionate leader who demonstrates persistence in the face of obstacles. They have great respect for leaders who don’t back down from challenges, and they are energized to follow suit.
Equally important is to inspire confidence in your leadership approach. Even if you don’t have experience to draw from, if you model proven qualities of good leadership your team will believe in you. These include honesty, integrity, creativity, and commitment to the team’s goals. Communicate clearly with your team about problems and recognize them for their successes. Delegate responsibilities to make individual members feel like stakeholders in a process.
Be sure to consult with stakeholders to make good decisions. If decisions fall flat, use your good insight to identify where mistakes were made and how processes can be improved. Above all, be cognizant of your own mistakes and be accountable for them. Remember: a good team leader builds social capital with her team by assuming more of the blame and less of the credit.
Coaching Challenge #2 – Building Trust
You cannot effectively coach your team members to their fullest potential without transparency, openness, and, most importantly, trust. Trust is at the heart of a leader’s ability to arouse the kind of personal revelations among subordinates that cause them to grow in profound ways. But trust is not easily won. And if it’s broken, the entire relationship is at risk.
Here are some strategies for building trust and encouraging your team to open up to you.
Be reliable and keep your promises – Follow through on any commitments you make. If you promise to send feedback on a document, do not delay. If you promise to connect a team member with a business contact, do it the same day you make the promise. Reliability is an easy and simple way to build trust with anyone.
Be available – Subordinates appreciate your responsiveness to their needs when they arise (and, yes, they notice when you don’t respond). Anticipate the need to accommodate periodic requests for your attention and build time into your schedule for them. Nothing builds trust better than someone’s knowing they can depend on you to be available when necessary.
Reach out – Many people may be reluctant to “bother the boss” unnecessarily. Therefore, when you reach out to your team members, you build a bridge of communication that encourages them to approach you about problems or issues that you can help resolve. It goes a long way towards strengthening relationships when a team member knows he has a willing listener in his team leader.
Be open yourself – Remember that scene in Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hank’s character, Captain Miller, finally shares with the men of his squadron that, before the war, he had been a small-town school teacher? He chose that precise moment to reveal this personal tidbit – which, until that point, he had been staunchly private about – to quell the infighting amongst his team that had arisen after a particularly stressful battle.
He knew that sharing a little of his story would demonstrate to his troops that he, too, was human, fallible, and full of doubts, just like the rest of them – and, yes, he continued to do his duty. The infighting was allayed, the men pulled together, and the squadron continued its mission.
Sometimes, opening up about yourself creates intimacies that are very successful in building and strengthening relationships.
Coaching Challenge #3 – Getting Results
People respond differently to different methods of coaching, so having a basket of strategies that you can employ to elicit best results from each member of your team is imperative. Some people might do well with short, intense interactions – perhaps a quick, power debrief after a project completion. Others might respond better to drawn-out, more relaxed exchanges that don’t put them on the spot at any one time.
Some team members may need you to hold up a mirror to their behaviors and nudge them with critical questions. Others won’t acknowledge problems – or even progress – unless you can demonstrate your point with tangible evidence.
One excellent way for just about anyone to see the patterns of their own thoughts and how those patterns may relate to their successes or shortcomings is journaling. Writing encourages a person to slow down the thinking process and think more deeply about the root of any challenges they may be facing. It often catalyzes a significant redirection of thought, and the record of data is a valuable tool for subsequent reflection.
Coaching Challenge #4 – Keep Them Engaged
You’re only a leader if you have people following you. So, you need to keep your team engaged in the team’s goals and in you as the team leader. How do you do that? Here are a few tips:
Maintain contact – Building rapport and maintaining good communication, both at the individual and the group level, will move you all towards the common goal.
Remind your team to keep their eye on the ball – Reiterate often what the team’s overarching purpose is, and remind individuals of their contributions towards that purpose.
Engage your team – Ask your team members for their feedback on you and the team’s purpose. Doing so makes them feel invited to partner in the goals.
It’s not easy to be the leader of a team, but taking the time to invest in being a good one is sure to yield the kinds of results that will benefit you and your organization. And that starts with mastering the challenges of coaching others.