I have had the privilege of training 1000’s of leaders around the world in how to coach. In at least 90% of these coaching sessions, the single biggest learning for them is not to be a teller.
I found that most of them would have sworn that they don’t just tell that they engage the person in the feedback, but once they are practising in a real situation they go straight to their unconscious behaviour. They tell their employee the feedback and the response they always receive is a nod of the head.
In fact, I have had employees share with me that when their managers provide feedback in this way, they just nod their head and smile, the manager walks away and they just carry on doing what they always do.
How do you know if someone understands if you are NOT getting them to tell you what the solution is or how to resolve something?
You must ask questions; you must get the words out of their mouth.
Coaching isn’t about telling; it’s about teaching a new behaviour. Asking questions interrupts unconscious behaviour and has people take responsibility.
Leaders ask questions, they have their employees provide the solution, they get the words out of their employees mouth and in doing so shift their behaviour.
Shifting behaviour means focussing on the behaviour rather than focussing on what the employee is doing. Providing feedback cannot ever be personal, your feedback must always relate back to a technique or a pattern of behaviour.
An example of a leader coaching an employee
“Hey, I noticed you’re looking down when greeting our customers, what could you do to improve that next time?”
An example of a manager coaching an employee when they tell
“Hey, you need to keep eye contact when your greeting our customers!”
It’s so simple to tell, you don’t have to be thinking about it, you just tell rather than ask BUT telling doesn’t provide the learning or ability to shift behaviour.
The difference with the ‘Leader’ style of coaching is that although it might seem that the answer is obvious, the fact is when they tell you – you know – they know!
And, even if they haven’t done it before by simply asking, it gets their brain to think about what should I do? or What would be a great way to do that next time?
As a leader, you are left with a really clear understanding:
1. You know that they have understood the feedback
2. And in some cases you know that they are now aware of their unconscious behaviour
Even if they did know they were doing what you identified and provided a reasonably simple answer, what’s important to remember here is:
We remember 70% of what we say but we only remember around 20% of what we hear – getting your employees words out of their mouth is way more effective.
It comes back to setting your team up for success, I believe if you want your team to be successful you must set them up to win. The main point in doing this setup is always to ask each employee, What can you do today to deliver 10 out of 10? and get the words from their mouths.
Getting the words out of their mouth has multiple uses, it just doesn’t apply to employee coaching. Whether you’re a business coach, a sports coach, a teacher, a salesperson, or a parent – asking questions is a very powerful technique when providing feedback so people actually understand this is what I did and this is how I can improve. The moment they have recognised the area of improvement and have told you how they can improve and they have committed to doing so – is that moment they have taken on being accountable.
We call this being ‘above the line.’
Getting people to take responsibility also relates to ‘above and below the line’. Getting people you’re coaching to be above the line is about asking questions – what do you think you could have done? What could you be responsible for?
For example, people who are always late and who have always got an excuse for being late are ‘below the line.’
I often ask them – What could you have done to be on time? and it’s always such an interesting answer – I don’t know!
I follow up with, well let’s go through that – When did you leave home? What time did you get up? Do you allow for things to go wrong?
Why do I ask these questions?
Because I know, on time people generally allow plenty of time – they allow for things to go wrong and they always arrive early.
Seriously, if you ask any on time person you know to break down their behaviour for you, they will be able to tell you how much time they need to get up and ready to leave their house, what time they are going to leave, the route they are going to drive and what time the will arrive – whilst allowing for some type of variation.
IT’S NO LUCK that an ‘on time’ person is ‘on time’.
Whereas people who are NOT on time people, always have an excuse or justification about why they are late. And they do not take responsibility, so even in the example above – asking great questions when coaching a ‘below the line’ employee has them take more responsibility during the coaching process and leaves them far more able to shift their pattern of behaviour, unconscious or not.
I even use this leading question technique in my sales programs.
When I teach my sales program, the biggest learning I leave people with is great salespeople ask great questions. The biggest sales research project I conducted across multiple industries showed that customers want you to check-in to understand if they are interested first and don’t sell to me if I am not interested.
Customers hate feeling pushed when salespeople tell too much information and tell information the customer wasn’t even wanting to know.
Salespeople must ask leading questions first to actively understand the customers level of engagement; they must get the words from their mouth.
Great salespeople get interested and ask great questions, they use the leading question technique for example, has anyone told you about ….. rather than the McDonalds technique which is a closed question – Would you like fries with that? These techniques don’t not work but they don’t work anywhere near as successfully.
For example, Has anyone told you about ………..? Are you aware these products are Australian made?
I taught this in my famous service station program and have supported companies to use this technique and make hundreds of millions of dollars around the world.
I teach this in restaurants and I have even trained this sales technique to a team that sell million dollar engines; the most expensive on the market. Again, the sales training was on asking good questions.
And the question that we created and which added massive value to this business was:
Are you aware of the fuel savings with this engine?
Of course most people would say “no” and the salesperson would reply – “let me tell you then.”
The benefit of this question is that the salesperson is now actively engaged in a conversation. They are not just telling the customer – like let me tell you about the fuel economy because this is a really good benefit of our engine – NO, they got interested and asked the question – the customer shows interest – conversation begins.
Great salespeople know, it is about getting interested.
Are you interesting or interested?
People who are interesting talk a lot, people who are interested ask questions, they get interested in someone else.
So, I invite you to monitor yourself and think about:
Are you a Manager or a Leader?
Are you telling or asking?
Are you interesting or interested?
Whether you are a parent or whether you are a leader working with a team in either business or sport, how often are you just being a teller more than asking questions to check understanding?
Ultimately the most effective coaching is when an employee can say it and do it – that’s when you have truly got understanding, so getting people to go to the next step is even more powerful, but this is certainly a good way to move towards that.
For more information on how to “Get The Words Out Of Their Mouth” or to discuss Coaching or Sales Training Programs contact me.