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More than a “Manager” – How to become a Career Coach & Help Your Makers Thrive

There is a big difference between being a good manager and a good coach. Managers focus on making sure team members are meeting expectations and help them navigate the policies of the organization. Good coaches, on the other hand, bring out the best in team members so they can reach their full potential.

Often, a leader wears both the manager and coaching hat. However, not every leader is prepared or trained on how to be a good coach. Without any training, the easiest, safest default for busy leaders is to rely on “managing.”

This is a huge missed opportunity for the leader, the team member, and the company. The leader misses the chance to make their job easier by equipping their team member to solve problems without them. The team member loses out on chances to grow and can become frustrated. And the company loses the chance to invest in its future.

Numerous studies have shown that people will achieve more when they’re in a positive mental and physical state. How can you get someone into the right mindset? By coaching with compassion. Here are a few simple steps that a leader can take to provide good coaching to makers.

1. Invest Time in Building the Relationship

Start your interactions by sharing personal stories with one another. You can ask the maker to share the story of how they got where they are today. People like talking about themselves, so give them the time and space to allow this to happen. Focus on listening. After this happens, offer to share your own story.

The benefit of starting this way is that you have the opportunity to understand someone’s personal and professional past. Building a successful relationship involves mutual give-and-take. To build a deep and trusting relationship, some level of self-disclosure is necessary. For example, sharing a failure story or a difficult time in your past can begin to create trust between you and the maker.

2. Have a List of Good Questions

Look for opportunities to ask questions that help the maker reflect on themselves and their current situation. The goal is not to solve their problems for them. Instead, help them understand where they are and equip them with the tools they need to find a solution.

Here are a few questions I like to ask:

  • What would you like to do?
    • Why do you want to do it? What excites you about it?
    • What do you hope to learn? How does it align with your goals?
    • How will it make you better at your job?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • Can you see yourself being happy in your current career path in three years?
  • Who do you most admire and why?
  • What would you do over if you had the chance?
  • Who has been or is the most influential person in your life?
  • What did you love doing when you were younger? Or in high school?
  • How do you start over and not allow busy-ness to overwhelm you?
  • What are you doing in your spare time that sparks your passion or curiosity?
  • Was there something you used to do that made you happy? Why are you not doing it now?
  • How do you feel about your personal relationships?
  • How was your relationship with your parents?

I’m sure there are more great questions that will arise through your engagement. Each question will invariably unveil some insights. You don’t need to have the answers, but you do need to ask the questions.

3. Find Their Gifts

Most people do not realize how they are wired. A good coach will help the maker understand themselves. Help them see their passions, their abilities, and their natural curiosities.

Some of this will happen through the questions you ask. Keeping an inventory of current skills and future abilities can help.

Uncovering other gifts might require different tools. One approach is to use tools like a DISC assessment or StrengthsFinder to give a maker some insight as to how they are wired. This can help them understand how they communicate, why they may find themselves in conflict, how to resolve the conflict, and how to develop a career plan that aligns with their skills.

I’ve found most makers to be very receptive to these tools and excited by what they learn in the output. It’s important that the maker talk over their results with a person who understands the tool and can interpret the reports. This communication ensures that the maker won’t come to the wrong conclusions about themselves.

4. Start with the End in Mind

Check out the framework found in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. How do we start to help them think about the end? Have them think about their 80th birthday party and ask what five things their family and friends would say about them. This technique will start to get at their dreams and desires and how they see themselves and their aspirations.

The big question here is, how does someone personally find long-term success? Our goal is not to give the maker that answer, but to teach them how to fish for it. If we tell the maker exactly what they need to do, we are only telling them how we would achieve that goal using what makes us excellent and not what makes them excellent. Our excellence is not their excellence.

We are really helping them sort through their confusion to find the real problem that needs to be solved, then take that problem and break it into smaller, doable actions.

Frame the doable actions in a roadmap, and then act as an accountability partner to check on their progress. When they start to stray, give them feedback and challenge them back onto their path.

5. Walk the Talk

Lastly, remember that most mentoring is caught, not taught. You are a role model. How you show up every day and the quality of your interactions will have a profound influence on your makers. Specifically, what you demonstrate as important will rub off on them.

Live your corporate values, support all of the other leaders within your company, and act with humility and kindness. And one day, when you reach 80, you can reflect back and say, “I did well.”

Someone trusted you enough to give you an important leadership job. Look beyond the manager hat and use the opportunity to invest in the people around you. Bring out what makes them excellent.

Famed college basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Mentoring becomes your true legacy. It is the greatest inheritance you can give to others. It is why you get up every day.”