Elements of an Effective Coaching Relationship

As I write this, I am visiting Zhuhai, China, as a speaker at the HR Technology China conference.  You might assume that being at an event like this, all discussions are about technology and the tools leaders need to make managing the people in an organization a smooth, seamless function.  If so, you are only partially correct.  One of the things I love about working to better the people-experience in an organization is that no matter what part of the world I visit, the main theme remains around the “human” side of things.  Making connections between people remains a universal need. zhuhai

I my short time here, I have learned that the Chinese are:

  • Very proud people-  From speaking with Liu Jiawen, the Vice Mayor of Zhuhai Municipal People’s Government to Hua Fuzhou, President of the China Association for Labour Studies,  they communicate that the people of China, and specifically Zhuhai, are proud of their city and the culture it offers to it’s residents and visitors.  I have never felt so welcome anywhere I’ve traveled.
  • A hardworking people- The level of attention to every detail whether in a service role or in a thought leader role is the highest I’ve ever observed.  It’s not just about being at someone’s service either.  It’s the warmest feeling when people are working hard to ensure that you are comfortable and connecting.
  • An innovative people-  Everywhere I look, there are signs of innovation and creation.  The Chinese are demonstrating their commitment to making their cities more accessible as well as more sustainable.  In addition, they are focused on improving the technologies that keep the new ideas developing.

All of these things are important for any country, or organization, to grow and remain relevant.

Elements of an Effective Coaching Relationship:

The common thread I see from the pride, hard work and innovation is that there is constant coaching and reinforcement going on here.  More junior workers are being trained to enhance their skills.  They are taking cues and guidance from the more senior members of their team, and they are welcoming that coaching.  That leads me to the conclusion that an effective coach is only as good as the level of change the coachee is willing to accept.

I’ve written about coaching in the past from the perspective of what the coach can do to build strong skills or connect to the coachee.  Whether it’s in Coaching Made Easy or in Creating A Coaching Culture and the related Rules of Engagement, the focus has been on the relationship between the coach and coachee.  While some coaching relationships go on for years, others last only a short time or are for a specific reason. The coach and employee can negotiate the “why” of it all together.  Coaching is a voluntary arrangement. In order to be coached, the employee has to want the relationship and it has to be “at will”.

I challenge you to think about your own team and the leaders that you work with today.  Are you all focused on the pride you have while working together?  Are you elevating the innovation in your organization?  Finally, are you doing all you can to create that connection as people?  If not, now is the time to adjust.  Focusing on elements that bring meaning to the hard work you’re doing is the catalyst that will drive systematic, cultural change in your organization.  In turn, your business outcomes will be truly transformed.

Thank you to the Zhuhai, China labor delegation, China Star, Steve Boese and LRP Publications for hosting such a wonderful event and for making the learning possible.

Manager Tip: Connections Lead to Engagement

Picture the scene: You’re the HR manager at company XYZ.  An employee calls to schedule time to speak with you about an issue.  The employee arrives and begins to explain that he feels his career is stalled.  He was hired as a xxx (could be any level employee) and he tells you he has skills that are not being utilized.  He is able to give specific examples of times his supervisor has not recognized his abilities.  He is now unchallenged, disengaged, and ready to leave your company.

Does this sound familiar?  Well, if you’ve worked in HR for any length of time, I’m certain you have had this conversation and likely, more than once.  The problem is that once an employee reaches the point of coming to HR, it is often too late.  What can HR do to help managers shape the culture so that they do not lose valuable employees?  The key is getting employees connected.

To start with the “why” of it all, we need to go all the way to the beginning of the employee life cycle.  Sourcing/hiring.  Many companies have a reactionary style of hiring.  Managers wait until there is an unexpected resignation and a position opens that they need filled “yesterday or sooner”. The recruiter of HR manager must scramble to write a job description, get it posted, and begin looking at potential candidates. This knee-jerk reaction to hiring does not lend itself to finding employees who truly have the qualities and skills that will make them most successful in the position.

“Connection Fact” #1:  Companies need to have a well thought out recruiting strategy to be most effective in hiring people with skills that closely match those required in the position. When skills match position requirements, employees are more likely to be engaged in the work.

So, assuming your company has not used a well thought out recruiting strategy, the manager will now have to deal with the issue of keeping the employee challenged.  The problem now becomes how does the manager know that the employee is not being challenged?  One would think that there should be regular feedback for employees throughout the year.  It is during these conversations that the employee could tell his supervisor that he needs more challenging projects.  But let’s face reality.  There are thousands of employees who do not have the opportunity to take part in regular performance feedback conversations.  This leaves the employee feeling like no one at the company cares if they are under-utilizing their skills.  No one cares if they are engaged in their work.

As I discussed in a guest post over at Aquire a couple years ago, employee engagement has a direct effect of stronger company performance. So, it is critical that a company be able to evaluate which employees are becoming disengaged so they can correct the problem as quickly as possible.

“Connection Fact” #2: Companies that lose disengaged employees often see the negative impact of having lower profitability and higher recruiting expenses.

Whether you are the HR manager or the direct supervisor, there are numerous ways to increase employee engagement.

  • Encourage mentor relationships outside the department- Employees who feel mentored know that someone in the organization cares about their development and career path.  Encourage the employee to specifically seek out other company leaders who are skilled at something different.
  • Communicate more, not less- Being transparent, even in economic downturns, builds trust with employees.  They will be more likely to hang in there for the long run.
  • Allow and encourage some fun in the work day- this one seems obvious to me.  HAVING SOME FUN AT WORK= employees who don’t dread being there.

The point is we should be seeking out ways to improve this in our own work environment.  And, if you find that the company is not encouraging increased engagement, it may be time to find something new.  Although employee engagement is holding steady during the economic downturn according to a recent Towers Perrin survey (June 2009), companies should still focus on proactively managing this aspect of the business.  It just makes sense.

Are you seeing engagement hold steady at your organization?  How do you keep yourself motivated and engaged?  

Using Social Media: An Organization That’s Doing It

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a truly inspiring event.  The St. Louis Children’s Hospital Employee Gala.  This is the highlight of the year for the entire hospital from an employee recognition standpoint.  It is a chance to come together to celebrate each employee and the contributions we each make to do what is right for patients and their families.  Why was this an inspiring event?  Several reasons:

  • First, any time an organization spends time, money, and effort to recognize and thank employees for the work they do, it’s a great thing.  More and more, we’re hearing that companies are not doing this for a variety of reasons.  For me, it was inspiring not just to have an event to get the employees together, but to take time out to recognize milestone anniversaries of five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, and forty years of service.  Yes, I said FORTY years of service with St. Louis Children’s Hospital.  That is amazing.  No only that, there was one employee in attendance who has been there for fifty-eight years!  How many companies can boast longevity like that?
  • It was also a night to honor the Leadership Award winner and the President’s Award winner.  They used FaceBook pages to highlight each nominee and made time to talk about each person while showing their “FB page” on the screens for the audience.
  • The emcee talked about the new iPhone app “Kid Care“.  Click the title to link to the app.
  • The theme of the evening was “Connecting the Best” and every part of the presentation portion of the night was centered around using social media.  As you can imagine, I was thrilled.

Here are a few examples of how social media fit into the evening’s festivities.

It may be a bit challenging to see, but for those people who use Twitter, I’m sure you can see that there is a Twitter profile up on the screen at the event.  They showed us the @STLChildrens active profile on Twitter so we could see what was being talked about online.

When you’re running a 24/7 hospital, there are always going to be employees who have to work and are not able to participate in events like the Employee Recognition Gala.  So, they arranged to use Skype and gathered some of the employees together so we could talk with them live during the event.  That’s what is being projected on the screen in this picture.  It was certainly fun for the approximately 1,300 in attendance to see live.

I’m proud to work where we’re using social media.  We are on the path and I’m sure we’ll hit some bumps along the way, but at least we’re out there….CONNECTING with the Best!

Thank you and kuddos to the planning committee for the Employee Recognition Gala.  Be sure to check out the St. Louis Children’s Hospital FaceBook page and become a fan!