Tag Archives: non directive coaching

A non directive approach

non directive

Does your team need your direction all the time?

Have you ever noticed how those people who constantly look to you to solve the slightest problem or to make the easiest of decisions, seem to manage fine when you are away for a day or two, or even a few hours?

Having to deal with every question or every problem your team face can be draining for you and does little to develop your team.

If you’ve always been quick to resolve problems for them it’s all too easy for this to become the accepted norm. But doing this denies team members of the opportunity to think for themselves. By turning things around and getting them to come up with their own solutions leads to an increased awareness of what they are doing and how they are doing it, better buy in and commitment to the solution, increases their confidence and is good for their development.

Of course this approach may not be possible or appropriate in every situation. So when is a more direct response needed opposed to asking them to solve their own problem or question?

A more directive approach may be more appropriate when:

  • It calls for speed
  • It’s a high risk situation
  • When you need to retain full control
  • There’s no debate as it’s a policy or legal decision has already been made
  • When the person isn’t yet capable or had sufficient experience, and asking them may make them feel vulnerable

The downside of being very directive

  • Limits people’s potential
  • Restricts innovation and fresh approaches
  • Gives no ownership or responsibility
  • Provides no opportunity for development and can even make people ‘lazy’ if you always solve their questions
  • It assumes you are right!

A non directive approach has the following benefits

  • Develops people assuming they have the basic experience or knowledge to build on
  • Gives them ownership
  • Helps with problem solving as it can generate more than one solution
  • Allows for continuous improvement as they might find a better way of approaching the situation
  • Gives a sense of achievement
  • Builds confidence when team members come up with their own solutions
  • Takes the pressure off you in the long term as people get used to coming up with their own solutions
  • Means you don’t always need to know the answer!

So the following situations might lend themselves to a non directive approach

  • There is reduced risk, or at least an opportunity to monitor or correct things before putting anything at risk
  • The team member has the appropriate skills, experience or knowledge to work things out for themselves (even if they don’t have the willingness to do so)
  • When there’s a degree of flexibility in the way something can be approached (even if the end result is not negotiable, such as legal requirements or demanding targets)
  • It’s not time critical and provides some time for the team member to think or talk it through

What if the customer is waiting?

Most often speed is given as a reason not to use a non directive approach.  “We can’t keep the customer waiting while I coach them. I’ll have to spell out what they should do.” Or you end up taking over completely and dealing with it yourself.

In this instance use a directive approach initially, then go back afterwards to review with the team member what you told them to do (or how you handled it), and why, and what they could do in similar circumstances to resolve the issue for themselves.

As a line manager team members will still need direction and guidance from you, but to develop them, get their buy in and improve productivity put some of the onus on them to come up with their own ideas and solutions as often as possible. It won’t happen over night, but if you always encourage them to come up with their own answers they’ll soon get used to it.

Action

If you only do one thing – the next time someone comes and asks for you for guidance or has a question turn it back on them and ask “what do you think?”

Related articles

Using the Coaching GROW model


Selecting an appropriate coaching style

Over the last couple of weeks I have written about using a coaching style to get the best from your team.

This approach will have a different outcome depending on where people sit in the ‘skill will’ matrix.

The skill will matrix looks at two dimensions. On the one hand it takes into account someone’s ‘skill’. Here we look at their capabilities based on their experience, knowledge and skill. Even someone with little experience in a particular role or task may still have the knowledge to understand what is required (e.g. how to deal with customers will be from someone’s own experience of being on the receiving end of customer service).

On the other axis we look at someone’s willingness or motivation to perform a particular task. Someone can be quite skilled at a task, but still not be motivated to do it.

 

Skill

 The Problem Child

Knows how but isn’t willing

Coach to motivate

ENTHUSE

The Star Performer

Can and Will

Coach to develop and progress

STRETCH

 The Under Achiever

Neither willing nor able

Coaching less effective and hard work

DIRECT

 The Apprentice

Willing but lacks the know how

Coaching help to apply learning

GUIDE

Will

Let’s consider what role coaching has to play in each of these four quadrants.

Top right – Star Performers

The aim of coaching here is to stretch people. This does not necessarily mean you are grooming them for a bigger or better job; your aim is to at least make them even better at the existing task, and to prevent them moving across into the top left box.

These people are the ones who will be most receptive to a non-directive coaching approach.

Top left – Problem Child

These are people who are quite capable, but not motivated. Often this same person may have been motivated at some point, but over a period of time has crept across into this box due to boredom or lack of recognition. Or they may move from willing to unwilling due to a one off event e.g. something has gone wrong, and they have lost confidence.  Either way your aim is to get them back into the star performer box, so you need to either enthuse them or rebuild their confidence. By using a non-directive approach you will be more likely to get buy in from them, and more likely to get them to recognise their own abilities to build confidence. However people in this category can sometimes be cynical or suspicious of you using a non-directive approach, so tread carefully.

Bottom right – The Apprentice

People new to their role or to a particular task will often be enthusiastic, but lack the skills or knowledge needed. Here you need to use a combination of direction followed by non-directive coaching to guide them put their new knowledge and skills into practice. Again you aim is to move them into the top right-hand box.

Bottom left – Under achiever

Coaching does not suit every situation or person.  The nearer people sit to the bottom left hand corner the more directive you will need to be.

Recognise that individual employees will sit in different boxes on different tasks. Someone who is a star performer in some areas, may lack motivation in others, and may be taking on new tasks from time to time which can put them in wither of the two bottom boxes. Equally someone who is an under achiever in some tasks may still sit in any one of the other boxes for other task.

Do you know where each of your team sit on the matrix for each of the tasks they are responsible for?

Coaching and leadership styles will be covered in detail in my forthcoming Leading for Peak Performace programme which is being launched in late September.


Do your staff need your direction all the time?

Have you ever noticed when you are away for a day or two, or even a few hours, your team seem to be able to solve their own problems?  Having to deal with every question or every problem your staff face can be draining for you and does little to develop your team.

A couple of week’s ago I wrote about using the GROW model, which can be used to great effect to tap into people’s potential when solving problems or improving performance. It is based on the principle that the coach (the line manager) asks questions and draws the answer from the employee. This leads to increased awareness of what they are doing and how they are doing it, better buy in and commitment, increases confidence and good development.

But it’s not appropriate for every situation. So when can you use this approach, and when do you need a more direct approach?

There are 2 key considerations

The situation and the person

 

A directive approach will be more appropriate when:

  • It calls for speed
  • There’s no opportunity for risk
  • There’s no debate as all the decisions have been made
  • When you need to retain full control
  • When the person has neither the capability or willingness to resolve the problem themselves

 

However bear in mind that this approach

  • Limits potential
  • Limits innovation
  • Assumes you are right
  • Adds potential for error
  • Gives no ownership or responsibility
  • Does not develop people
  • Can add a fear factor

 

A non directive approach conversely:

  • Develops people assuming they have the basic experience or knowledge to build on
  • Gives them ownership
  • Helps with problem solving as it generates more than one solution
  • It gives a sense of achievement
  • It builds people’s confidence if they come up with their own solutions
  • Takes the pressure off you in the long term as people get used to coming up with solutions
  • Doesn’t need you to always know the answer

 

So the following situations might lend themselves to a non directive approach

  • There is reduced risk, or at least an opportunity to monitor or correct things before putting anything at risk
  • The employee has the appropriate skills, experience or knowledge to work things out for themselves (even if they don’t have the willingness to do so)
  • There is some degree of flexibility in the way something can be approached (even if the end result is not negotiable, such as legal requirments or demanding targets)
  • It is not time critical and provides some time for the employee to think or talk it through

 

Most often speed is given as a reason not to use a non directive appraoch.

We need to make a decision on this now; we can’t keep the customer waiting while we sit and discuss it.

In this instance use a non directive approach initially, then go back after the event and discuss with the employee what they would do in similar circumstances to resolve the problem.

Clearly if you are someone’s line manager they will have an expectation to get guidance from you on how they should do their job, but to get their buy in and to develop them put some of the onus on them to come up with their own ideas and solutions as often as possible.

 

Coaching skills will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme which is being launched in September.