by Chuck A. Reynolds.
As originally publi
in the HR Reporter -
All rights reserved
Wanted: Managers who Coach
well in Crisis
Leaders can have biggest emotional impact on
before has it been so important for managers at all levels to
really engage in coaching their staff. With the economic crisis and its
continuing impact on organizations,
many organizations are trimming
costs, including head count.
The recent suicides of
successful financial players, such as German billionaire Adolph Merkle,
serve to demonstrate the severity of concern in this economy.
It is often said that worry about a
potentially adverse outcome is worse than the outcome itself.
Global studies are documenting the increase of stress levels on the
job. A recent
study in collaboration with staffing firm Robert Half revealed that
45% of respondents suffered from work-related stress. Respondents
also highlighted several causes including unachievable targets
(33%), poor management (38%), and poor work/life balance (41%).
The questions we need to be
asking now are, “what impact is this having on productivity” and,
“what can managers and organizations do to coach through the
What managers must understand
To be better coaches through these times, there
are a few things that managers must understand.
First, emotions are contagious, as documented by
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.
Since people watch managers, it is indeed the “boss” who has
the biggest emotional impact. Does he or she appear stressed,
worried, and fearful, or energized, relaxed and confident in this
economic climate? One observation often made of Barrack Obama
throughout his campaign was that he appeared calm and confident in
the face of opposition, and that he inspired these emotions in the
must recognize how important it is for them to Coach. Before
expanding on this, I’ll offer a definition of Coaching, since it
often means different things to different people. Think of “coach”
as it is used in the term “stage coach”. This early form of
horse-drawn transportation picked people up and transported them to
their desired destination. Likewise coaching, as a strategic
questioning-based dialogue, assists people in getting from where
they are to where they want or need to be in terms of goals and
5 Ways to coach effectively
So what can be done to coach
staff through these challenging times? Here are 5 things that
managers can do to coach more effectively:
Listen to understand:
your staff’s concerns. Some
may carry a heavy load as job demands increase along with demands at
home – from busy children’s schedules, to ailing parents. Some may
even be experiencing financial troubles due to the job loss of a
spouse or partner.
At the end of the day,
organizations don’t achieve results, people do. Let them know that
you’re all in the same boat, that you appreciate their efforts and
are confident in their ability to work through organizational
what they think they could be doing to be more effective (i.e.
supporting productivity with less stress). This represents an
important start to creative/ innovative thinking. Sometimes it might
be helpful to ask them to come back to you tomorrow with a list of
10-20 possible actions. Encourage them to be creative and produce a
quantity of ideas that you can later look at together and evaluate
Asking which goals and
actions employees will commit
to is important, because it
helps them focus on things within their control.
Help them make a plan: From the list of
possibilities, ask them which 2 or 3 of the most
practical actions they would like to commit to. These
could be new habits at work or beyond. Managers
with strong relationships and good coaching skills can
help a staff member make some personal changes
that translate to less stress in their lives overall, and
consequently greater productivity at work.
I know of a manager who
coached one individual through some issues of significant personal
debt at the employee’s request. The manager simply asked him to
consider possible options, which they evaluated together. The
employee chose to sell his vehicle and rent out his basement,
allowing him to retire substantial credit card debt and avoid
looming bankruptcy. Was he happier and more productive at work? You
Asking which goals and actions employees will
commit to is important, because it helps them to focus on things
that are within their control. Psychologists document that when we
focus on the “external locus of control” (things beyond our control)
we experience more stress and feelings of helplessness. When we
focus on the “internal locus of control” (things within our control)
we feel empowered and less stressed. Essentially, as a coach, you
engage them as you guide them to focus on solutions (goals) vs.
In some cases, some of their
action goals may require you to offer support where available. For
example, a slight change to some flex time to accommodate daycare
drop-off in the mornings can go a long way. I also know of a manager
who gave a staff member, who was a single mom, gift certificates for
a home maid service during a busy quarter at work.
Think holistically: The best coaches are creative and consider the whole person.
Encourage staff to try and develop a regular exercise
schedule they enjoy. From morning walks to gym visits, consistent
exercise goes a long way towards reducing stress and enhancing
The next several years will be tough on
organizations. Keep in mind that the best leaders cannot make a
chair, computer or desk appreciate in value over time. However, a
great leader can enhance the value of their people by coaching them
to be more effective, engaged and productive through times of
change. Organizations that develop superior coaching talent will not
only survive, but thrive.
All rights reserved. Article
reproduced from original publication in HR Reporter, February 9th
Chuck Reynolds is President and Chief Performance Officer of Excel
Group Development in Toronto.