Imagine a direct report comes to you and needs to discuss a problem they’ve wanted to solve for months, and they ask you for your help.
How do you move forward with the conversation?
First, be aware as a leader that this is a great opportunity to engage in a coaching conversation that could develop your direct report.
Second, realize that there are some pitfalls to keep in mind when moving forward with the conversation. A major one being that there may be a temptation to immediately jump in and start giving advice.
Moving straight to giving advice can be very appealing. For one, from your outside position, the path forward seems so obvious. The inclination is to tell your direct report next steps, which allows you to get back to your own task at hand.
One of the issues with sharing how to solve their problems is that you are not helping to foster that person’s problem solving skills.
In the Fierce Coaching Model, we discuss Princeton psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman’s research that shows people react emotionally first and rationally second. Meaning, if you impose advice on a coachee, and that person is not emotionally connected to it, more than likely that person will be back in your office looking for help on the same issue sooner rather than later.
Truly successful coaching conversations provide epiphanies by engaging both the heads and the hearts of the coachee.
To do this, the coach must listen more and talk less. The conversation allows the coachee space to dive deeper into the issue, and the coach is there to ask specific and poignant questions that inspire the coachee to identify the issue, determine impact, and work out next steps.
A successful coaching conversation helps the person generate insight to both intellectually and emotionally connect to their resolution.
Does this mean you shouldn’t give advice?
As a leader, it means being emotionally aware and transparent about what you are doing. If someone asks for your help, allow them to work through that issue and help facilitate the conversation with thoughtful questions. If they then directly ask for your advice, give it to them! The power comes from knowing the difference between the two.