If you believe coaching is a great way to approach supervision and develop people, great. But do you give your managers the know-how and time to coach? When I ask managers I work with whether their bosses support their talent development role, many say, no, or not much. Their performance is too often evaluated based only on their functional roles as program managers, sales team heads, etc.
If you expect managers to be coaches, you have to invest considerable organizational resources to create and sustain a culture that is consistent with a coaching approach. Culture building has to come from the very top—as an organizational strategy, with resources. Once you commit, there are many ways to start; I gave ideas in an earlier blog. In today’s blog post, I want to emphasize that after you teach managers coaching skills, you have to continue to give them resources that enrich their skills—forever!
There are lots of teachable ideas for skill building. Here, for instance, is a framework managers can use to bookend check-in meetings with supervisees. The acronym TOSS will help you remember how to start the meeting.
- Topic. Some weeks you’ll bring the topic. Sometimes, though, begin the meeting with an open-ended question. Ask, what topic would you like to focus on today?
- Objective. State or ask what the objective is for this meeting.
- Success. When the meeting objective points to a specific action or plan, be sure to ask how both of you will know the coachee has been successful.
- Support. Ask your coachee what you can do to support him/her during and after this conversation.
At the end of a meeting, the TAPAT questions invite the coachee to consolidate her/his learning and commit to action.
- Take aways. Ask, what are your take aways from this meeting?
- Actions and/or a Plan. What actions will you take, and/or what’s your plan?
- Accountability. How will you make yourself accountable for your action or plan?
- Thanks. Express appreciation for something specific that has happened during the meeting.
At first I chafed at this structure, a version of one used by the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, where I have been a mentor coach. You also may share the skepticism of one of my clients there, who wondered how she could use TOSS and TAPAT while guiding a gracefully fluid coaching session.
Then I started seeing how TOSS and TAPAT questions enriched my practice. The opening questions help the coachee focus and help the coach serve learners’ real needs and goals. At the end of a meeting, the TAPAT questions invite the coachee to consolidate her/his learning and commit to action. I ALWAYS learn from the coachees’ choice of take aways. These help me understand what is meaningful for them, how they see their own challenges, and how they learn.
Years ago, when I was a young teacher, my wise mentor Pam told a story that taught me a lot about a coach’s helping role. During an alumna/e weekend, a former student ran up to Pam, exclaiming that he had learned so much from her. Pam waited to hear confirmation of her classroom skills. Instead, the young man said that one day, as he and Pam had walked together across the snowy campus, she had wondered aloud at the lovely snowflakes swirling about. “You taught me to notice small things,” the young alumna said.
Coachees’ answers to some of the TOSS and TAPAT answers often surprise me, and that’s a good thing. The surprise reminds me to be present for this person, here, now.