Think about your favorite coach in the sports world. Does s/he wait till weeks after a game to give players feedback? No way! Coaching occurs during a game, during practice, during half-time and immediately after the game.
At The POWERformance Group, we believe in maximizing every performance conversation. That means those informal coaching opportunities as you’re walking down the hallway. Coaching “in the moment” is one of the best ways to reinforce positive behavior or draw attention to things that could be better.
With In-the-Moment coaching (ITMC), it’s easy to make sure your comments are about specific behavior, not the person’s overall abilities or achievement. Whatever just happened is the subject at hand, not generalities about the past month or longer.
ITMC is most effective when you develop a “coaching language.” The words you choose set the tone for a successful, future-focused coaching experience.
Imagine that you observe one of your team members not speaking up during an important meeting. As you’re walking out of the meeting, but without others eavesdropping, you could start an ITMC conversation by saying, “I noticed in the meeting you tended to let others do the talking rather than share your experiences.” As long as you pause for a few seconds, that comment will prompt the person to respond. Your very short conversation might sound like this:
Manager: I noticed in the meeting you tended to let others do the talking rather than share your experiences.
Team member: I wasn’t sure my experiences would be helpful.
Manager: While you may be hesitant to speak up, remember you’re there to contribute to the team and your experiences can help everyone make sure the project stays on track. Next time, share at least one experience, and I’ll bet people will ask for more.
The most productive In-the-Moment conversations have a positive slant, especially to start. If the manager had started with “You should have contributed more of your experiences,” or “Why didn’t you speak up?” the tone could come across as negative. Saying “I noticed” simply introduces a specific observation. It doesn’t sound judgmental or disparaging.
ITMC is especially dynamic when you ask good questions. Starting with either What or How, for example, “forces” the other person to respond with more than a yes or no answer. And, that response then helps you move on to another question or to offer coaching advice. Here’s another possible scenario after a team meeting:
Manager: What do you think went well for you in the meeting?
Team member: I was ready with answers to all the questions people raised.
Manager: I agree with you. You really did your research beforehand. Would you do anything differently next time?
Note how the “next time” approach in the “Would you do anything differently next time?” question is an excellent way to keep the conversation going. It can lead to an opportunity to offer advice.
The right questions give team members a chance to come up with their own very smart ideas. Perhaps that’s the best kind of coaching — less telling and more asking.
ITMC is perfect for positive reinforcement. To make the most of that opportunity, don’t limit your comment to “Good job!” Instead, be specific. Something like this:
“You really captured the group’s attention by having very concise and colorful slides. It was clear you put a lot of thought into your preparation.”
What’s the likely result of that coaching moment? The team member will probably continue the praised behavior. In this case, the person will always have concise and colorful slides. That’s just human nature: “Tell me what I’m doing right and I’ll repeat that behavior.”
Experienced managers find great value in very short coaching conversations. They feel that team members are more receptive to feedback because it’s not a scheduled meeting. They also say it’s easy to coach in the moment because they don’t have to think back over a period of time to remember what someone has done.
The manager-as-coach role is a helping role — helping people succeed — and that helping can occur anytime anywhere.