If you are leading and managing people, Coaching and Check-in meetings are a must, and there is a difference between the two conversations. To help clarify their use, let’s define and differentiate the two.
A Coaching Conversation:
What is Coaching?
First, a coaching conversation is NOT a meeting to reprimand someone or discuss what they have done wrong. (Example: “Why did you do that? We need to have a coaching session to fix that!”) This is the antithesis of coaching!
ICF defines coaching as: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”
Coaching is about supporting and believing in someone with all your heart. Sometimes, it is believing in the that person even when they may not believe in themselves. Coaching is listening 80% or more of the time and talking a maximum of 20%. The 20% talking is asking questions, not telling or solving their problem. Coaches ask open-ended questions that engage dialogue, deep thinking, and problem solving. Coaching creates thinking beings not doing beings. (Thinking beings have the ability to pause, analyze/observe the challenge at hand, and think it through before taking action; a doing being would run to their immediate supervisor/manager and ask what to do in most cases, then take action. Doers are fearful of taking action on their own and run to management for every little thing.)
The Coaching Conversation
With a coaching conversation, the coachee brings their agenda to the conversation. Coaching is not about the manager telling the coachee what will be discussed; this conversation is truly for the coachee. However, sometimes there is an “umbrella agenda” where a theme is discussed in the conversation. (Examples: management development, emotional intelligence development, communication skills, etc.) For leaders who coach their direct reports, coaching creates trust and builds meaningful relationships.
The Heart of being a Great Leader is Getting to know your staff members and building solid relationships.
Accountability is a key component of coaching. During a coaching session, the coach helps the coachee clarify their goals, establish timelines, and holds them accountable by removing blocks and barriers that may be blocking them for accomplishing those goals. (Some blocks and barriers may be fear, low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, limiting beliefs, etc.)
Examples of Coaching Questions: What’s on your mind today? Who is involved with that problem/situation? How is that impacting you personally and professionally? How have you contributed to that problem/situation? What have you done so far? What are some possible solutions? How can you think outside of the box about this situation/person/problem? What will you do first? When will you complete that? How can I support you? What is the best way for us to connect and follow up? How has this conversation helped you today?
A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you always knew you could be.
A Check-In Meeting:
A check-in meeting is about getting to know your staff members as individuals in an informal way. To do this, you can meet for a cup of coffee or lunch and ask meaningful, open-ended questions about them personally. As a leader, once again, the check-in meeting builds trust and develops a deeper, meaningful relationship with those they lead. Depending on how many people you manage and/or lead, I recommend every other month for this type of check-in.
Examples of Check-In Questions: How’s life outside of work? Would you like more or less support from me? How do feel working with our team? What can we do to improve our team culture? What do you like to do outside of work? What motivates you the most? What kind of projects are you most excited to work on? Do I give you enough feedback, both supportive and critical? What is something you would recommend we START doing or STOP doing to increase efficiency? What was most valuable for you in this conversation?
Meeting Types for Managers and Leaders
Here is a great resource for all the several types of meetings a manager may have with their team. 10 Types of Essential Work Meetings. With all meetings, be sure to demonstrate mindful leadership, open to hearing what others have to say, and being compassionate rather than judgement.
By the way, a Performance Review Meeting is most often scheduled annually and is not a coaching conversation or a check-in meeting. In contrast to the old standards, my belief is that once a year is not enough for a performance review. In order to make performance reviews useful, I strongly recommend to those I coach to have this type of meeting quarterly. As a result, each of your staff members is on the same page with you throughout the year! If someone has started to struggle or fall off course with their projects and/or responsibilities, a quarterly meeting will allow everyone to get back on track. It also creates a culture of clarity, connectivity, and accountability.
Too often I hear, “I don’t have time to meet with my staff.” In reality, you don’t have time NOT to meet with your staff and stay connected! I can not tell you the number of times I have heard from “busy” executives, “If only I knew that they were struggling, I may have been able to help them or prevented them from leaving our organization.”
Remember, the minimum cost of replacing a staff member is 1 ½ times their salary! There are also the time and resources it takes to advertise, interview, hire and onboard a fresh staff member. Do the math…staying connected and making time to meet with them regularly will be a valuable use of your time.
Leadership Challenge: Who will you meet with this week for a Coaching Conversation or a Check-In meeting?
Start reconnecting with your staff and rebuilding solid relationships with them!