A September, 2020 article on the CCL website lists four core skills for bosses who are coaching direct reports.
It’s a good list, and I’d like to elaborate on two of the skills they mention, the first being the need to both challenge and support your coachee.
I’ve found in coaching that deciding when to confront coachees with the unvarnished truth about their behavior or performance is often an artful matter. Ultimately, I go with truth. But timing can be important. Are they ready to receive the full brunt? Is support more important in this particular moment?
For bosses who are coaching, this situation may be even more difficult. The boss-direct-report relationship involves an on-going history of interactions and usually a set of fixed assumptions about each other that flow from that history. Plus any feedback coming directly from one’s boss carries significant extra weight.
If bosses have already demonstrated that they are supportive of their coachees, then letting them know exactly where they’re at is more likely to be received less defensively and acted upon. Bosses can also start the discussion by finding something to praise about coachees’ performance before moving into areas of concern. This puts both the boss and coachee in a more positive frame of mind.
There’s no substitute, however, for bosses listening carefully, or, as the authors of the CCL article call it: “listening to understand” (another of their four core skills), which means paying attention to not just the factual meaning of what coachees say but the feelings and values behind it.
The sense of connection that develops from this kind of listening is vital, and yet it’s something we’re tempted to momentarily pull back from when we have to confront people with something negative about their behavior.
Maintaining that feeling of connection while still delivering hard truths is a skill that many struggle with. But it can be done, and practice helps.
You can see the CCL article at https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/what-it-takes-to-coach-your-people/.