How To Triage Your Team Coaching Time

Carving Time Out For Coaching Your Team
A leader's time is becoming fragmented as never before. Incorporating new processes and technology. Increased matrix-team involvement. Dealing with the demands of an ever-increasing competitive landscape. The list goes on. Where then does coaching one's team members come into play?
Most leaders understand that coaching is an important component of leadership success, and becoming even more so as we see the Millennial Wave transforming the corporate landscape. But as a leader's time becomes a hot commodity, coaching their team members is unfortunately a component that is getting lost in the shuffle. Choosing to problem-solve rather than coach employees is a short-term fix to the time crunch they're experiencing. Or, it's preferable and easy to assume that silence is good. In other words, if an employee is not calling or knocking at their manager's door, all must be well.
It's understandable. But the problem with this - and it's a big one - is that coaching is the wave of the future. A future that is quickly unfolding. Members of the Millennial surge are demanding that they have managers who are willing to frequently coach them. As the recent Gallop's 2017 State of the American Workplace study indicates, the mindset of the modern workforce prioritizes "a coach before a boss."
Now is the time for leaders to flex their coaching muscle, not let it atrophy. After all, it is primarily the current Gen-X and tail-end Baby Boomer managers that will be overseeing the generational mega-shift already afoot. Within the next 10 years, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials.
Now is the time for leaders to flex their coaching muscle, not let it atrophy.
So, how does a busy, harried manager triage his/her time for coaching? The following 3 considerations can provide some guidance:
1. Team Coaching Need
Everyone can benefit to some degree from coaching. However, needs do vary from one point in time to the next, and these needs must be regularly assessed. The proverbial pulse taken.
Leaders are often trained to spend the majority of their coaching time with their "highest potential" employees. These individuals are most often not only the highest performers but are also those who actively seek out the manager's time and support. Very often, a leader's time is focused here by default, and given the caliber of the employee, it's time well-spent.
However, what about those employees who do not regularly seek out support? According to the same Gallop study, upwards of 50% of any team are likely somewhere along the spectrum of "partial dis-engagement". This represents a significant coaching opportunity for managers. But without regular needs assessment, these individuals run the risk of falling through the coaching cracks.
One common example is the employee who has been a consistent performer in the past but for some reason results have been on the decline. It can be easy to take a wait and see approach to this - after all, you trust the employee. But what if there is something more serious occurring? An interpersonal problem perhaps. Or a challenge outside of work. These types of situations require effective coaching to gain a deeper understanding of what is holding them back and to support them in overcoming it. Action taken early can mean increased employee engagement and the myriad positive results that accompany this.
Another common scenario is the individual who had been struggling and has responded positively to the manager's intervention. However, how often, once these team members are showing signs of turn-around, do they then become lost in that managerial time shuffle? I readily admit that I've been guilty of this myself as a former manager. Just at the time when attention is most effective in order to "crystallize" the behaviour change and learning, the manager's time gets dedicated elsewhere to the next fire.
There is no one-size fits all to coaching. And needs are constantly in flux. Striving to apply your time equitably to all, or a focus on primarily one segment, may not be best strategically. It's an ongoing dance that requires regular assessment and adaptation.
2. Team Coach-ability
While I believe everyone can benefit from coaching, some individuals are much more receptive to it than others. I see this regularly in my practice as a professional coach, and I witnessed this in leadership.
Assessing your team on specific behaviours rather than simply a "gut-feel" can help you assess coach-ability. In particular:
*Do they receive feedback positively?
*Do they actively seek out and integrate feedback?
*Are they committed to personal development and ongoing learning?
Highly coachable people are learners. They understand the potential that resides within them and they will do what it takes to tap into this. Rather than look to their manager for answers, they are ready to roll up their sleeves to do the introspective work required.

Coaching is an ongoing dance that requires regular assessment and adaptation.

If you want to increase both your time and comfort level with coaching, focusing on those who have the highest need and coach-ability is a great place to start.
3. Team Coaching ROI
Return on your coaching time can also be viewed from a short vs. long timeline perspective. Understandably, leaders look at the most pressing needs first, as these are likely to give the best bang for the buck in the short-term. However, there are some situations that are slow-burners - where a small but consistent effort may provide significant dividends in the longer term.
For example, every manager has or has had an employee who prefers to work alone. These "silo" mentality, "lone-wolf" individuals are often consistently high performing in terms of hard outcomes, but fall short in the softer competencies such as teamwork. These individuals may resist short-term, directed coaching efforts, but will respond to a manager who sets his/her sights on helping this individual develop in the long term. A "nuanced" approach - incorporated within natural touch points - can be quite effective in moving this team member to a greater awareness of their own limiting perspectives around teamwork, and to becoming a more well-rounded corporate contributor over time.
Coaching by managers is increasingly becoming an imperative, while the time currently being dedicated to it remains relatively low. 
Using the three assessment criteria of Coaching Need, Coachability, and Coaching ROI to triage opportunity, leaders can take a more strategic approach to where they direct their coaching time. And, ideally, increase the time dedicated to coaching as well.
Glenn Case is a Leadership, Executive and Team Coach in Vancouver, Canada.