A workplace version of the old adage, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime," might be written, "Teach your direct reports to solve problems for themselves and you'll spend less time solving problems for the rest of your career."
Traditional management techniques revolve around directing, motivating and reviewing performance. Mentoring and coaching are techniques designed to help you develop self-motivated employees who can tackle complex or sensitive tasks without extensive supervision.
"Coaching involves modeling a desired behavior in a very mindful way," notes Jody Bertram, senior EAP consultant for VITAL WorkLife. "Before, during and after performing the task or process, you're asking reflective questions designed to make the employees demonstrate their problem-solving skills."
Managers who operate under a belief that "there's nobody else who can do what I do" often attempt to do everything themselves. While they may have great technical skills, that doesn't translate into great leadership. Great leaders are those who get things done through others—and who share their knowledge and skills to develop their direct reports, increase productivity and lighten their personal workloads.
"When an employee has a problem, don't give advice or solve it yourself," advises Bertram. "Your goal is to develop people with good decision-making skills and reduce their reliance on you for answers."
Managers interested in coaching need to get comfortable with providing feedback on an almost continuous basis—rather than waiting to for quarterly or annual performance reviews.
"Regular feedback not only helps reinforce any positive behaviors you observe, but also may prevent employees from developing work habits that aren't productive or will get in the way of their success," says Bertram.
Employees tackling unfamiliar tasks are bound to make mistakes. Managers who want to develop self-motivated employees will take care not to stifle their employees' willingness to take risks. As Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corp., once said, "You can tell a lot about the long-term viability of any organization by how it handles mistakes."
New to Coaching? Your EAP Benefit Can Help
Coaching is often less comfortable for managers who've never been coached themselves. The EAP benefit provided to you through your employer by VITAL WorkLife can help you get started.
"We are as apt to get calls from managers who don't know anything about coaching as we are from experienced coaches who want help developing a strategy for dealing with a challenging situation or employee or direct report," says Bertram.
Free, unlimited telephone counseling, coaching and support are free to you, your family, your employees and their families as part of your EAP benefit. Your benefit also includes free face-to-face counseling with master's- and doctorate-level professionals. All you have to do is ask.
Simply call 800.383.1908—any time day or night—and ask to speak to an EAP counselor.
More About Mentoring
Contact VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App