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If you don’t have time to coach, ask these two questions

In a world that seemingly gets ever busier, it can feel as though we are constantly being sold “stuff” to help make us more productive and supposedly save us time. Wearable technology, new and improved smartphones and contactless payment cards are all intended to give us a few precious extra moments in squeezed schedules.

As leaders of people, where we re-invest that ‘saved’ time is crucial and finding a few extra minutes each day to focus on coaching would be a great start. When I first learned how to coach (many years ago now!), I was, like many people managers, introduced to the GROW (Goal Reality Options Will) model, which is a well-regarded and highly proven way of thinking about how to structure a coaching session. I remember returning to work with great intentions about applying it and then finding that my focus quickly turned back to dealing with the stream of problems and issues that my team had experienced whilst I’d been away learning how to coach them! I also remember telling my boss at the time ‘I just haven’t got enough time to coach – I’m just too busy fighting fires’.

Two powerful questions you can ask

In response to this comment he asked me two, really powerful questions ‘What have you done already to try and deal with that?’ and then, after I gave my response, ‘What else could you do?’. He got me thinking; rather than trying always to put out the ‘fires’ for my team, maybe I needed to ask them the same questions when they turned to me with their challenges to get them to start to become ‘fire fighters’ themselves and to grow in terms of their responsibility and ownership of problems or issues. With just two questions, and in just a few seconds, my boss had coached me.

Ever since, I’ve championed the fact that coaching can be done very well in hardly anytime at all. It’s still sadly a very common misperception that people managers need to invest inordinate amounts of time they don’t have to coach their team members. The truth is, you can create time for yourself – and your team – just by asking a couple of questions to help people think for themselves about what they can do differently or better. Try it today – you haven’t got enough time not to!

Image by Caleb Roenigk

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