There have been many studies conducted on the critical skills employers look out for in an employee or potential staff. Regardless of research studies, one of the most critical skills required in the workplace, whether it was before, today or in the future, is problem-solving skills. Fundamentally, companies employ staff to solve problems at the workplace.
How can companies train problem-solving skills? Whenever companies find gaps in the competency of an employee to tackle his/her tasks on hand, the typical answer is to sign the employee up for a training course. Is training the only answer to closing competency gaps?
One of the tools managers can adopt is micro-coaching, which can be conducted over a 15-minute conversation, targeted at solving a specific issue on hand.
John Whitmore, in his Coaching for Performance book, highlighted the essence of coaching from Harvard Educationalist and tennis expert, Timothy Gallwey, which is, “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
Unlike specialised and formal executive coaching programmes where sessions may range from 60 minutes and beyond each time, managers could just spend a short yet intense 15 minutes in micro-coaching conversations with their staff, to solve challenges faced at the workplace.
Some of the benefits of micro-coaching include the following:
It serves as a form of continuous feedback feature and ensures learning to happen consistently, for both the staff and manager;
Through the guidance of the managers, micro-coaching conversations enable staff to take ownership of their work issues;
Micro-coaching may be applied either face-to-face or via a communication application (Whatsapp, Skype, etc) to meet the following needs:
The GROW Model is one of the most established and commonly-used coaching models today. Created by Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues in the 1980s, it is simple to apply for any manager and supervisor. Each of the letters, G-R-O-W, stands for a word representing the process of the coaching conversation.
For micro-coaching to happen, the goal or objective must be very targeted and specific.This brings focus to solving the issue on hand.Managers could use SMART (specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic and time-bound) method to help the staff define the objective.
For instance, when a staff is faced with an angry customer for a failed service delivery, the goal for the micro-coaching conversation may be “To find two possible solutions to be taken today to appease the customer and gain goodwill to retain customer loyalty”.
During this stage, the manager will need to ask good questions to get the facts of the case clear.Any strengths, weaknesses, mistakes the company as a whole has made, may be explored.It is important to determine the details of the issue, which party did what, and any other information which will help to provide solutions to the issue.
Managers will have to use good communication skills, whether it is listening, questioning or paraphrasing, during this stage.It is important not to blame the staff nor anyone quickly, but to listen objectively with the intent to help and solve the problems.When your staff feels that you are there to help, he/she would feel more open to share with you intricate and honest details of the situation.
This is the stage where different solution possibilities are brainstormed and explored.Pros and cons of each possibility is further analysed, before a solution is determined.
One important point to note for managers here is that you may know of a tried and tested method to solve similar issues.As this is a coaching session and your intent is to help the staff learn, it is important to hold back your suggestions but to hear from your staff.Question and guide your staff to providing some of the possible solutions.Trust them that they may be able to come up with some innovative solutions.At times, you may wish to share a similar experience, but leave it to your staff to accept that as a possible solution.
The point here is to guide your staff to think and work independently, instead of looking to you each time there is an issue that surfaces.Your value comes in the form of assuring that the options discussed follow company and industry guidelines and are ethical when implemented.As you are more experienced, being there to look out for blind spots and ask good questions to guide thinking is an asset.
After the analysis of the possible solution options, ask the staff for the solution he/she would find most feasible to act upon.Make sure there is an action plan, with specific timeline that the staff would work with.Be prepared to help facilitate your staff with certain elements where necessary.For instance, make a call to another manager from another department to introduce your staff who would be calling on him/her to seek certain assistance.
Empower your staff, and establish a time for your staff to share with you the outcome following the action taken.Make sure you show your support to enable your staff to have the confidence to move ahead.
In conclusion, micro-coaching is a powerful training tool which can be adopted by any supervisor or manager daily in the workplace. It can train your staff the critical problem-solving skills they need. Having said that, it is important to note that micro-coaching should not be used as a replacement to the regular and formal communication mechanics in place, such as performance reviews, departmental and operational meetings, and coaching sessions. Such formal mechanics still have their places in the sustainable operations of the company.
As the saying goes that people leave their managers and not companies. When staff feel that they are engaged and empowered, they would be motivated to perform well, thereby increasing the company’s productivity over time.
What do you think?
ABOUT THE ARTICLE CONTRIBUTOR
Josephine Teo is INSEAD’s Instructional coach and ODC’s principal consultant. Josephine is an accredited coach and trainer of trainers, she is passionate about people development, and constantly seeks to empower her learners to bring out the best in themselves through sharing of knowledge and experience, and inculcating a spirit of inquiry and innovation.
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