Is coaching for everyone?

In a post “Coaching approach to leading people” I talked about how to manage people using coaching approach. One question that I sometimes get is whether that approach works for everyone. The simple answer is “yes.” Coaching approach is something that works across different personality types, organizations and cultures. However, one needs to understand that it is not suitable for every situation and also the extent of success will vary from person to person.

What are the prerequisites?

There is single most important prerequisite: willingness of the person to get coached and desire to improve. If you try to coach someone who is not willing to change then no amount of coaching will work. In fact if someone doesn’t want to change then there is no approach that will work as you cannot change someone’s behavior against his will. And it doesn’t need to be just about change. For such a person you need a different management style in every interaction.

Who else? For more junior members of your team coaching will still work but may not be enough. You will need to combine it with some training, mentoring and other tools for developing people.

Is it appropriate for this situation?

The only question you should ask is whether the situation or the topic is appropriate for a coaching approach. Where coaching won’t work well is when you need to develop technical or functional skills of your employee. For this particular need some training and mentoring are generally better approaches. At the other hand where coaching really works are behavioral issues. If you need to change attitude of someone on your team (for example to be better team player, to be better listener, to be more assertive) coaching is a nice way how to achieve the goal. Though still, the person must understand the need and be willing to improve.

Is it the right management style?

It depends. As a general rule in knowledge based workplace it will do miracles that would be difficult to achieve by other means or management styles. However, there are situations when you need to adjust your management style to get things done. A typical situation would be an emergency. The same way as consensus is not the best way how to make fast decisions it is not appropriate to use coaching management style when you need your team to act fast and “without thinking”. If you are in a damage control mode you need your team to follow orders and you can leave the coaching for another time.

Will it work in my culture?

When it comes to different cultures then similarly to different people not everyone will react the same way to this approach. You may consider explaining a bit more what you are doing, what is your expectation and what are the boundaries and guidelines for you and your employee will work together. When you look at the research done by International Coach Federation (2012 ICF Global Coaching Study) coaching is a really worldwide movement and you can find presence of this profession in countries around the world. It is estimated that there are 47.500 professional coaches (18.400 in Americas; 21.300 in Europe; 2.100 in Middle East and Africa; and 5.700 in Asia and Oceania). Coaching works everywhere and you just need to be sensitive to the needs of your employee.

Twitter type summary: “Coaching works for anyone who is willing to get coached, has an open mind and a strong desire to improve.”

What are the situations when coaching didn’t work for you? What approaches did work?

Getting the perfect hire

There was so much written about the topic of recruitment and how to hire the right people to the organization. And there is a good reason for it! As I wrote in blog post Everyone is a recruiter, recruitment is one of the keys to a successful organization. You just need to get it right otherwise you will constantly struggle. So what should you focus on when hiring a new team member?

What to focus on

Expertise – obviously you want to hire someone who is able to do the job. You should expect a basic level of technical competence. How deep expertise the person needs to have really depends on the role. For some roles the expertise is the most critical part (especially when you want to bring type of expertise not available in the team yet), however for most of the roles the expertise is “only” important but not critical. What is more critical is capability.

Capability – you want to hire someone who will be able to grow with the organization, someone smart and capable who will constantly improve, be innovative, be able to solve complex problems and learn the needed expertise fast. So capability and future potential trumps the expertise but there is something even more critical.

Attitude – this is the most critical item you need to focus on. I love the quote by Lou Holtz (American football coach) “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” The person might be super smart, the greatest expert, but if he is not passionate about the work, if he doesn’t want to do his best, you will not get the results you expect. At the other hand if he has the right attitude “he wants”, he has the potential “is capable”, he will learn the expertise. That is how stars are made!

Communication – you are building a team and that means people need to communicate. In today’s global world the ability to communicate, formulate your thoughts, present your ideas and do it in such a way that you get support is super important. You might find the smartest person but if he is unable to communicate his ideas to the rest of the team then it is a lost opportunity and you won’t be able to get the best out of him.

Cultural fit – you need to hire for the company values. You need to find people whose values are in line with yours and with those of the organization. That is the only way how to build a sustainable organization, how to make sure the team has a common sense of ownership and pushes in the same direction.

How to do it?

Don’t compromise on requirements – you should never ever compromise on what you need. Don’t lower the bar! If you need a senior developer then hire someone with capabilities of a senior developer. Don’t take shortcuts (like hiring someone with skills of a junior developer and just giving him the fancy senior developer title) and don’t crumble under pressure. Yes, you need the person fast. Yes, there is a push from the management. But none of it matters. If you compromise now, you will have to compromise every single day the person will be on board as he won’t be able to do the job you need him to do.

Don’t oversell or overpromise – the best way to attract the person who will stick with you is to be yourself even during the interviews. Why try to attract a person by over promising and hire on a false pretense? Yes, he may start but very soon he will recognize that things are not as promised and it will have a significant impact on his motivation. By overselling the company or position you just crossed one action item (getting the person) and created tons of other action items for you for the future when you will be required to spend time with the person to keep him motivated, keep him focused, keep him in the company.

Don’t underpay or overpay – always offer a fair compensation that is in-line with that person’s market value and is at par with his future peers with similar skillset that are already on your team. Don’t try to overpay even if you need the person really badly. You can always persuade someone to join by giving him more money, but if he is not compatible with the organization, doesn’t share the values and doesn’t want to join just for the sake of the job, then he won’t give you 100% and you just brought on really expensive troubles.

Don’t hire copies – don’t try to hire copies of yourself or copies of the best person on your team. Hire the right person to have a balanced team. You don’t need, and in fact you don’t want, to hire ten superstars with twenty years of experience. It is unlikely that these guys would work well together. You need a team that has someone who is a strong leader, a strong substitute, someone with great technical expertise who can teach others, someone who solves any problem, someone who is willing and able to learn, someone who won’t complain about a boring tasks, someone who will research new things, someone who will be willing to work with old technology, someone who will do what is needed even if boring. And these traits don’t need to be bundled in a single individual. The simple rule is to build a team that is great today, but that has also enough junior members and potential to be great also in the future.

That’s it. I’m pretty sure there are many other aspects of what to focus on when hiring a new team member and I don’t pretend to have all the right answers. Keep in mind that I’m coming from technology companies where people are the single most important (and often most expensive) asset and can make or break the business. And when you are still not really sure whether to hire the candidate this simple trick may help. Ask the hiring team who spoke with the candidate if there is anyone who is really enthusiastic about him and willing to put their reputation on the line. If no one raises their hand then continue to search.

Twitter type summary: “When it comes to a fight between expertise and attitude, the attitude will win with both eyes closed and one hand behind its back.”

What are your tips and tricks on how to hire the right people to the team? Anything in particular you always focus on that you believe is a key to the right hire?