Coaching your Office Staff
Effective communication is the number one consideration when you want your practice to run smoothly. As the leader, you are responsible for setting the tone of communication. If you wait until issues become problems, this is how others will behave as well. If you model proactive, constructive communication, then this is what you will more likely see from your staff. As the practice leader, one of your most important tasks is to grow your people. Having regular, preferably quarterly, one-on-one coaching sessions provides opportunities for staff to share their ideas, frustrations, and career considerations in a private setting.
The key to effective coaching is the understanding that it is employee-focused. The leader’s role is to listen to employees and draw out their key issues. It is recommended that leaders do 90% of listening and 10% of the talking. You can also use the one-on-ones to ask for feedback on your own performance and suggestions for change. The Six-Question Process outlined below can be a helpful guide for you to feel more comfortable engaging your staff in coaching conversations.
1. Where are we going? Ask your staff for their input on where the practice should be going. This is an opportunity to ensure that staff feel aligned with your strategic objectives, and that these align with the practice vision. Staff have the opportunity to come up with new ideas and share them with you. They also may have better insights on how the practice is doing since they are the primary contact with patients.
2. Where are you going? This question has two levels. The first level gets at where that staff member and his/her colleagues are headed – what are they trying to achieve to support the company’s mission, vision, and goals. For example, what are the hygienists as a group doing to provide excellent patient care? The second level is aimed at the specific individual with whom you are speaking – inquiring about his or her personal and professional goals and priorities. Knowing what your staff are thinking about, and their level of engagement, can help you build your succession pipeline and avoid surprises down the road.
3. What is going well? Ask your employees what they think the practice as a whole does well and what their peers have been doing well. Recognize them for their achievements and contributions to your overall objectives. You may have missed out on some positive accomplishments and this is the perfect setting to learn about them.
4. What are key suggestions for improvement? Encourage your staff to provide constructive suggestions for the future. From this feedback, you can pick a few key opportunities for improvement and focus on them for the quarter. Next, ask your staff, “If you were your own coach, what suggestions would you have for yourself?” By listening to their suggestions, you can then modify your own suggestions to better reflect the strategic objectives of the practice.
5. How can I help? By listening to your staff, you can provide the appropriate support to ensure that their suggestions are being implemented effectively. You can also participate by suggesting approaches and asking whether the approach will be helpful to become more effective. Leaders need to remember that improvement is not measured by the frequency of one-on-ones, but by the quality of them. They key to improvement is to provide coaching to the right people on the “right” topic. When the coachee has the opportunity to be heard in this context, the “right” topics will arise.
6. What suggestions do you have for me? This question makes the one-on-ones a two-way conversation. Leaders who ask for feedback and focus on self-improvement are more likely to have an increase in leadership effectiveness. Your staff will be more open to the idea of being coached when their leader is willing to be coached by them.
Becoming an effective coach requires trial and error. There is no perfect formula on how to be the best coach since every context and person is unique. Therefore, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from your colleagues, your staff members, or your own leadership coach. Practice different coaching styles and approaches to discover your strengths and work on your weaknesses. The end result of effective coaching affects both the leader and the staff. For your staff, one-on-ones provide a structure for guidance and focus which leads to higher productivity. Your staff will have greater satisfaction as coaching allows them to share their ideas and career plans.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.comForward this article to a friend
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