I often hear from managers that they don’t know what to coach their direct reports on. It appears the word coaching implies to them that they must have some special insights and skills which would qualify them to coach someone else. Most managers do not realize that they actually know a lot about the company, how things work, how things should be working and how it is going generally. Perhaps all they need is a way to get the conversation going?
Many junior level employees or those with only a few years of working experience (in total) typically need a lot of guidance on some very basic questions which they have about the company, their roles, and what they can and should expect. Some of these relatively inexperienced employees are often not that good at identifying and verbalizing their own underlying questions and instead just keep asking for feedback, which is a very vague term for most managers to interpret.
Coaching your direct reports can be much easier if you use this little summary sheet showing the basic questions that most employees have for the person that they report to. As their manager, you can open a conversation covering one of the questions on the sheet and just state “I can imagine you may have some questions or would like to know more about….” (use one of the questions shown on the sheet). Once the conversation is kicked-off it often happens that the employee will start to bring up more specific questions that he or she may have.
Coaching can be a highly structured program requiring a lot of specialized communication and coaching skills and training. It can also be simply helping employees understand the basics around their roles, the company and how things work in their environment. It is your role as their manager to coach them and develop their knowledge, skills and competencies on an on-going basis. If you need more training and support with regards to coaching, do talk to your HR representative. In the interim, this conversation-starting summary sheet may be helpful to you!
Coaching your direct reports Summary sheet link.