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  • Kathleen Riessen

Are you really coaching your employees?

Are You Consulting Your Employees or Coaching Them?

Do you spend your days problem-solving for your employees? Your plate is already full managing clients and collaborating with the multiple departments within the agency.

If you’re solving problems for your team on a regular basis, chances are you’re operating more as a consultant than actually coaching your team. It’s a subtle difference, but if you want to find more hours in your day, it’s a shift you definitely want to make. Doing so will quickly move you towards higher productivity and profits – as I personally discovered a few years ago.

This distinction between consultant and coach revealed itself to me back in 2012 during what I remember being an absolutely crazy year. I was pregnant, working five-plus days a week running my own agency and serving on the National American Advertising Federation board and many others. Weekdays saw me ferrying my two young children to and from daycare as my husband worked in a sales job on the road more often than not.

Realizing that there was only so much of me to go around – and with my due date fast approaching – we decided to pull our children out of full-time day care and hire a nanny 3 days a week to give me more time at home. Cutting back to 3 days a week at the office made sense for our family, but I secretly wondered how I’d be able to get all my work done and manage our team in less time. To top it off, our son was born prematurely and suffered serious health issues in his first year. With almost daily doctors’ appointments and a high level of stress, you would think my business would have suffered, but something very interesting happened instead: we grew astronomically – multiplying our revenue three times over.

A Mentality Shift

With the amount of the time I was able to spend at the office cut almost in half, I was forced inadvertently to shift my mentality from consultant to coach. I wasn’t always around to solve problems, so I had to support my employees by growing their capability to handle things on their own instead. This ended up being highly empowering for them and highly beneficial for the agency.

I noticed that if I answered an employee’s query with my opinion, they would automatically run with it, so I stopped doing that and began asking questions and getting curious instead. In doing so, I pushed them into becoming more self-reliant, and they learned to figure things out on their own when I wasn’t there.

If you want to coach your team, you can’t make other people's challenges yours to solve. That’s what a consultant does – comes in and solves problems. The problem is, if you're constantly putting out fires, you end up having someone coming to you for a solution for every single challenge that happens around you. Making the move into coaching your team empowers them and opens up the space of time freedom for you. Ultimately that allows you to move your clients forward in the ways that matter to the bottom line.

Learning to Fish

Think about it – if you take someone fishing, put the bait on their hook and cast their line for them, they’ll never learn how to catch a fish on their own. If you spend a couple of days patiently instructing them – letting them fumble through on their own – they’ll soon be able to catch their own. Combined with your efforts, you’ll soon be catching twice as many fish. In coaching we let the other person struggle though – even fail – and then we support them through the lesson.

How do you move beyond fishing analogies and get there? Start simply: make it a goal for one week to not answer anyone's questions with an opinion. Answer with a question instead. Get curious with your team. Though it will feel uncomfortable at first (and maybe even mildly evasive), when you answer questions with questions, you’ll be teaching your team how to walk through the critical decision-making process on their own.

Coaching Culture

Another simple thing you can do to facilitate the shift from consulting to coaching is to implement 5 minute 'pocket-coaching' sessions. Again, ask questions around the particular issue or challenge your team is going through: What happened? Could you have done something differently? What approach do you think you’d like to try next? What have you learned and how do you think you’ll handle this going forward?

It doesn’t have to be a dramatic shift; you can start slowly and see where it takes you and your team. If you’re looking to take larger, more formal steps to implement a coaching program with your team, I can help point you in the right direction. I work with agencies looking to build a consistent training and coaching program and would be happy to connect for a conversation.

Clarity of Purpose

When you move from consultant to coach, you quickly get everyone moving purposefully in the same direction, without you being there constantly to guide them along. It makes good business sense. When you have clear purpose and people being coached towards that purpose, that's when you shift into an abundance of free time for yourself which can ultimately translate into higher profit for your agency.

If you are leading an account service team and are looking for support just like this to grow and lead your team, join our Account Leaders Mastermind. This is a great way to work with peers in a safe and trusted environment to learn, share and grow.

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