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This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Registration for 2017 has now closed. Winners will be announced in Spring 2017. Sign up to receive an e-mail about registration for 2018 at

How effective are you as a coach to your employees?

One factor that can positively or negatively impact employees' engagement is their relationship with their direct manager. The collection of relationships employees have with management also plays a role in shaping corporate culture as well.

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Corporate culture is not a mystical element. Culture is collectively defined by managers' and employees' thinking, which then influences the kinds of attitudes and behaviours that are accepted or rejected within an organization.

Managers who commit to develop and practice their coaching skills can contribute to creating a coaching culture that fosters learning and growing. Some by-products of a coaching culture are improved employee engagement, trust and results.

This microskill of coaching focuses on what a leader can do to promote a coaching culture with their employees.


Before leaders can coach employees effectively they must be crystal clear on what success is for all the core functions they oversee. They must also be clear on what it really takes to be successful. This is important, because for leaders to have credibility as coaches, their employees need to be confident that their managers truly understand their challenges, workload and needs. Credibility is earned; it doesn't come with the title.

Leaders can also observe and learn how employees have been corrected before and now are typically corrected, directed, coached and praised. The more leaders see the world through their employees' eyes, the sooner they will be trusted and respected.


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Being an effective coach with employees demands being a consistent role model who leads by example. There can't be two sets of rules. Leaders create the standard and expectations they expect for themselves and their employees. Coaching creates a conversation where employees can discover, learn and grow so they can feel better about their roles and more easily achieve results.

Coaching is much more than just trying to reduce risk by correcting behaviour. It's about getting employees to learn to think as well as helping them see things differently. It's impossible to coach others effectively if you haven't experienced coaching yourself or have completed some coaching training for managers. There's no substitute for training and personal coaching experience. Like any skill, coaching requires practice to be effective.


The following tips can you get started towards facilitating a coaching culture with your employees:

· Avoid assumptions – Ask employees what they think. Resist the urge to respond and answer your own questions. Instead of guessing how they came up with their answers, get into the habit of asking a follow-up question as to how they came to their point of view or conclusion. This can help you get the true facts and learn how your employee sees the world.

· Promote coaching and listening – Introduce to your team the simple coaching-and-listening concept and let them know it's important to you that everyone is heard and understood. Try something like: "When a team member is speaking, our job as listeners is to be curious about what's being said and what the person means. This can ensure we're getting all the facts out in a clear way, keeping the conversation focused, and not making assumptions." Make it clear that you want people to listen to each other versus interrupting or just waiting for a turn to talk. It's okay to correct and remind team members until this concept becomes ingrained.

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· What would you do next time? – When an employee makes a mistake, instead of just correcting them and filling in what you did, practice the concept that nobody's perfect and we're all learning. Mistakes happen. Your goal is to help employees learn from mistakes and reduce the risk for relapse. To establish whether learning has occurred and the employee has taken ownership of their mistake, ask what they would do next time. The goal of coaching is to ensure the employee has the knowledge and skills to achieve success if they find themselves in a similar situation again.

· Spend time with employees one-on-one regularly – No two employees have exact same needs or gaps. Creating a coaching culture requires a routine and commitment to spending time with employees one-on-one. This can be a 15- to 20-minute coaching session that can be shaped by asking questions like: "How can I better support you?" This is not assuming that you're not doing this now, but challenging norms and promoting continuous improvement, and showing your willingness to learn and grow.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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