Show Them How to Think, Not What to Do

Whenever I host a full-day leadership workshop, an introduction to coaching skills is always on the agenda.

The reason is that your ability to coach team members is the answer to a lot of common challenges managers have such as a team member being disenaged, an overall lack of ownership or independence, managing under performers or even dealing with an over performer.

But coaching is a big word. What does it really mean? How do I do it? When do I do it?

To cover all that, we definitely need a couple of hours together but there is also a super simple way for you to get started and to get into the practice of coaching.

The way is to move from telling them what to do to showing them how to think. 

Let me explain.

Say that someone is new on your team, the first thing you are going to do is to show her the ropes, their roles, tasks, etc. This is going to require telling her what to do.

However, once your new team member is familiar with her job duties and how to execute the tasks expected of her, she starts to become more comfortable in her role.

And at that point, your approach to supporting her needs to shift as well.

You will need to step away from telling her what to do and start showing her how to think instead.

Showing your employees how to think means that you’re giving them insights into the thoughts and mental processes you would be going through if you were in their shoes executing their tasks.

For example, say that you have a report to complete for your executive team. You’d likely be thinking about…

  • the ideal structure of the report,
  • what you want the team to take away from the information you present,
  • what some of the challenges or potential risks are that need to be highlighted,
  • and any questions that could come up for the reader that you will need to back up with facts and evidence, etc.

So rather than telling others what to do, you’re starting to take them through your own mental processes and thoughts.

You’ll ask “How do you want to structure the report?”, “What do you want the execs to remember from this write-up?”, and “What risks do you think need to be included?” and so on.

When you do this, their learning curve and engagement will spike and they will become less reliant on your instructions.

Instead, they’ll start trusting their own capabilities to figure things out on their own.

You are moving from telling them what to do to showing them how to think about their tasks ahead.

And that way, my friend, your coaching will naturally come into fruition as you’re asking your team questions and letting them come to their own conclusions.

This will allow your employees to take stronger ownership of their work and will help them to feel empowered. 

In the following graph, you can see that the output of employee productivity and results are drastically higher when managers are able to coach their teams by showing them how to think and what questions to ask, rather than telling them what to do.

Simply telling others what to do prevents them from taking initiative and thinking outside of the box.

When employees have to constantly rely on their managers to tell them what to do, the negative impacts are much like the negative side effects micromanaging can bring.

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