Do You Spend 3 Hours a Month Coaching Your Employees?
As a manager, you might sometimes feel like a traffic cop. Do you find it hard to prioritize which team member to give your attention to when multiple decisions must be made immediately? Do you regularly have people lined up outside your door waiting for your input? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’ve got a problem. Here’s how to fix it.
When your staff members stop their work progress, because they are waiting for your input, you have become a bottleneck. Janice Mars discusses this situation in her Salespop post. Mars is writing about sales managers, but her advice can be applied to all managers. To avoid becoming a bottleneck, you need to train your team members to think on their own.
This training is not as simple as telling employees to make their own decisions. That attitude could result in an employee sinking a key customer relationship. Instead, you need to actively train your employees how to handle specific situations. In many cases, you’ll have to help them think through the outcomes and consequences of various decisions they might make.
Let’s say your employee is in a big rush to hire an independent contractor to do some work on a project. Perhaps your employee favors this contractor because a friend at another company hired the same person. Word-of-mouth recommendations are a definite plus, but that’s no reason to rush into signing a contract.
Start asking questions. These questions can be classified as coaching and should be designed to help the employee think. For example, ask if the employee has figured out whether this contractor has the exact skill set you need. Ask if your employee has looked around for other vendors who offer similar services. Make sure your employee understands that price is not the only issue. Encourage your team member to think of other concerns. Then, encourage your employee to make the decision independently, with the understanding that they’ll own any positive and negative outcomes. You should also make it clear that the employee should plan to make these decisions independently in the future.
At this point, you’re no longer a bottleneck in the work process. You’ve coached your employee on how to think independently. At the same time, you’ve encouraged a team member to take on new responsibilities which amount to another line item on their resume.
Mars reports that the optimal monthly coaching time per employee is between 3 and 5 hours. If you spend this time wisely and help team members think for themselves, there should no longer be a line at your door. This new work process will remove you from the day-to-day details that your team members can easily handle and give you time for strategic thinking.