Are you the reason your team member is underperforming?

Are you the reason your team member is underperforming?

It sounds completely unlikely and yet you might feel differently after reading this.

The managers dilemma  

The manager has a team member who is underperforming, she doesn’t come to them with ideas and solutions.

I asked them what they do to enable her to do her own thinking and they said, “I coach her on what she could do and then she does it.”

Then I asked them to describe what they meant by ‘coaching’.

They laughed as they told me that coaching is helping someone find their own solutions.

It’s a good reminder that just because you use the word ‘coaching’ to describe what you’re doing, doesn’t mean that you are actually coaching.

At every interaction the manager was telling his team member what to do. They weren’t asking her what she thought or how she’d approach the task. Their actions didn’t match their expectations.

If you want your team members to come up with ideas and solutions then you need to develop their capacity to think for themselves by asking them to.

Or to paraphrase a christian parable:

“Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”

Image Description : Person holding fishing rod on water. 
Image Credit: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash    

Use big open questions that start with ‘what’, or ‘how’

Questions that start with, “have you thought about…” or “are you ….” or “do you think…”, are not real questions, they are instructions disguised as questions and they could be perceived as judgements.

Instead try coach-like questions such as:

 – How would you approach this?
 – What information do you need to get started?
 – What do you think the deliverable needs to look like?
 – What else do you need to consider?
 – What help do you need from me?

In this way you are also giving ownership over the deliverable to your team member, you’re making it clear they need to work out how to deliver this piece of work.

What to do if your team member doesn’t know

If your team member isn’t used to being asked for their opinion, then the first few times you try this you’ll probably hear, “I don’t know?”.

It is super temping to give in and tell them but hold your nerve. Take your team member back to basics by asking:

 – What do you know already?
 – What do you need to know before you get started?

This is a coach-like way to find out what knowledge and capability your team member has. You then have a better idea of the gaps in their knowledge and what support they’ll need.

This manager was actually trying to be sensitive to their team members anxiety by telling them what to do.

Ironically, by using questions above to encourage her to get involved with directing the task she might have felt less anxious and more empowered to come to them with ideas and solutions.

Never want to miss another letter? Click now to sign up for weekly tips on how to be more coach-like in your work, career and life.

Want practical coach ideas that you can use everyday?

This website stores cookies on your computer. Cookie Policy