Coaching Your Teams Through Difficult Times

As we all hope and pray for and end of the Coronavirus Pandemic, fact of the matter is that people are stressed and scared — nervous about their own health, others’ and for the state of the country in particular and the world in general. For those lucky enough to be healthy and working from home in quarantine, their jobs can seem uncertain, trivial and irritating. Separated physically from their colleagues, customers, and normal workplace, they find themselves alone with their computers, sporadically touching base remotely with those they used to see regularly. Many feel lost. Organizational leaders can help their employees get through these trying times by coaching them as they re-evaluate their lives and rethink what they add to the world.

Great leaders always strive to stand besides their employees — treat them well, motivate them to succeed, and provide the support and coaching each person needs. This is often easier said than done, especially when it comes to coaching. That’s because coaching takes time, skill, and careful planning. And there are certain types of people who may be particularly challenging for managers to coach. Think about the Eeyore on your team who is pessimistic at every turn, or the person who refuses your advice with a smile on his face. It’s not fair to you or to the employee to give up, so what do you do?

Susan David, Founder of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching and author of the HBR article Emotional Agility shared her insight on some of the more vexing coaching situations managers face and what to do about them.

As with most interpersonal difficulties at work, the first step is to take a look at yourself. David says that the problem often starts in the manager’s head. “When a leader is coaching someone who they’ve identified as ‘challenging’ it means that manager has an attachment to an idea about that person,” she explains. You might think, this person is such a pessimist, or This is going to be difficult. “There’s a fair amount of research that shows that kind of orientation is not going to be helpful,” she says. Being “stuck” to those ideas leaves little “space for change, hope, or optimism.”

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