Teach Me and Coach Me
Today, we finish our lean culture series with the topic teaching and coaching employees.
Many of us were promoted to leadership because we were good at problem solving. Coaching skills actually ask the opposite of managers – it asks them to not solve problems. It asks them to ask open-ended questions so those closest to the task solve the problem. A key purpose is creating opportunities to meaningfully engage with employees, where in-the-moment teaching and coaching takes place, and where the leader gets to learn what issues need support rather than being the source of answers and decisions. Leaders do not assume they know it all. Rather, they go to the floor to learn from their people.
For leaders to move from a reactive to a proactive mindset and coach their people in active problem-solving, they must be comfortable with making mistakes. This includes owning your own mistakes, so others can see how you handle them, to giving grace when your people make mistakes. Allow room for your team to grow from their mistakes. When something goes wrong, make your first thought not “Who messed up?” but “Why did itfail?” and “How can I use this as a teaching opportunity?”Ask the right questions, so your employees can fully think through the answers. As you question, you begin to see things the way that person does, giving you keen insight.
Lean leadership is not micromanaging. Micromanaging is defined as excessive and unproductive hovering, monitoring or interfering with employee work. Interfering and not trusting your employees to do the task goes against everything that lean leadership is about. The best leaders know when to step back and let someone else take the driver seat for a while. You want your people to take ownership. Leaders should not worry about each detail of how direct reports do a task. Micromanagers agonize about how you got the data or how you completed the work and try to tell you how to do the work. Lean leaders help you find your way by defining expectations, not telling you how to get there!Leaders need create a supportive and nurturing environment.
Walk the talk. There is no substitute.