Coaching has a horrible reputation. I should know. I am one.
There’s a vast industry out there, with everything from books to conferences to blogs to online courses promising to turn you into a “master coach.” Which is all well and good, if you have money and time to burn. But for your average newly-minted manager, with barely twenty years of life experience and an inbox larger than their one-bedroom flat, becoming a “master coach” is a distant dream – not to mention entirely unnecessary.
The one thing we don’t need in the business world is more ‘managers’, with a big aggressive M. This world needs fewer scorers, processors, feedbackers, demanders, command and controllers, critiquers, short-term thinkers and empire-building protectionists. What it needs is more experts – experts who can engage, motivate, energise, praise, thank, and generally turn the lowest performing team in a business into the highest performing team in a business.
What we do need is a whole phalanx of people who are brilliant at encouraging, stimulating, invigorating, tickling, inspiring and otherwise nudging their people to keep making it human every day, in small and concrete ways. It is this stuff that turns the dial, that shifts the needle, and that delivers an ROI. It’s this stuff that helps creates a lasting culture where people want to show up, are happy, engaged, productive and effective. And it costs nothing, only time.
We call it uncoaching, and here are three quick ideas (there are dozens more) for how you can start to uncoach with your team, right now.
1. Walk and talk
Every conversation you have is an opportunity to uncoach in some way. So whenever you’re walking with one of your team, start a conversation and use it as a stealth opportunity to uncoach.
This not only saves time but encourages vulnerability and creativity. Most of us know this from our personal lives – it’s much easier to be honest with your partner when you’re strolling side by side than when you’re eyeballing each other across a table. And the best ideas tend to emerge during a country ramble, not when you’re stuck behind your desk.
Even if you don’t have a specific issue you want to work on with someone, get into the habit of grabbing opportunities to ‘walk and talk’ just for the hell of it. If your offices have outside space, use it. You never know what you might learn. Even if you get wet.
2. Praise more
A Gallup study found that 67% of employees who strongly agree that their manager focuses on their strengths or positive characteristics are engaged, compared with just 31 percent of employees who strongly agree that their manager focuses on their weaknesses. In other words, praise isn’t just fuzzy-wuzzy feelgood – it’s hard-numbers effective.
But why is it so powerful? As a team, we talked to Simon Sinek last year, he gave us the low-down on the neurochemistry of positive feedback. “Positive comments will produce other ‘happy’ chemicals in our bodies,” he explained. “The ‘happy chemicals,’ are known as EDSO (endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin). These chemicals, when properly balanced, enable us to function to our full potential.”
In other words, when you give positive feedback, you’re biologically priming your people to deliver their peak performance. So why wouldn’t you do it as much as humanly possible?
3. Hold buzz meetings
A ‘buzz meeting’ is a first-thing get together intended to set your team up for success for the day and remind them to, in everything they do, put people first. It’s an opportunity to uncoach multiple people at a time in an inspiring way.
However, don’t just pile on the scatter-gun whoops and high-fives. Get specific. Is there one thing that all the team could be better at? What one small thing will they all focus on today, to make a big difference? You might also want to ry out a ‘moodometer’, a fun tool used by organisations such as Nordstrom People Lab. On a flip chart, draw a scale with different emotions on it, ranging from angry to frustrated to bored to hopeful to happy (you can get creative here) and ask people to make a mark to represent how they’re feeling as they walk in. You can then track the patterns and use your insights as a future discussion point.
A warning, though: you have to commit to making your buzz meeting the highlight of everyone’s day. A limp buzz meeting is worse than no buzz meeting at all. No general knowledge quizzes. No awkward silences. Plan ruthlessly and deliver a short, sharp burst of energy and positivity. That’s uncoaching at its best.