Section 5: Is it coaching or managing?
Coaching and delegating
An important part of a manager's role is to ensure that staff constantly improve and develop, enabling them to take on new tasks, roles and responsibilities.
Delegating can be a powerful way of helping people to learn, especially if used in conjunction with coaching.
Delegation within a coaching process is much more than asking someone to do a job and then standing back and watching them. Delegation in the context of coaching entails a conscious process: helping the coachee to gain confidence and develop skills by undertaking a new task or responsibility.
The delegation process needs careful thought at each stage. Read the points, and select and click the photographs for more information.
At the beginning
At the beginning of the delegation process, consider the following:
- You need to start the delegation process by ensuring that the member of staff is motivated to undertake the task and is keen to develop in this way. This is usually best achieved by considering the question we came across in an earlier part of the course: WIIFM or 'What's in it for me?' By addressing this question - from the point of view of the colleague of course - you will be able to help them to identify what they will gain from the process: new skills, different experience or additional exposure. This in turn will help to motivate them to want to learn from the task and not simply carry it out.
- The start of the process is also the place where the objectives need to be agreed. These will refer not only to the task to be undertaken but also to the learning that should ensue.
'So, I'd like you to work with the client to find out what the problem is and the best way to tackle it without committing us to additional resource. In doing this, you will develop your customer liaison skills to go with your technical competence.'
During the process
It is important to meet with the member of staff to take stock and offer any continuing help, advice or simply reassurance needed. Delegation is about the manager being 'hands-off ', but it's not about being 'eyes-off.' As a coach you need to demonstrate your ongoing concern and interest, and of course you in turn will be reassured that progress is being made on the task and the learning.
During any intermediate meeting - or meetings since there will be instances when two or more such discussions will be needed - you will need to do the following:
- Ensure that you identify between you what is going well and what still needs work. Often, you will not know the detail of this yourself - and you will need to ask questions to ensure that all aspects are analysed.
'So, how are things going so far then? From my perspective, I'm really pleased with the progress you've made so far: you have spent time getting to know the client and their context. They have already commented to me that they liked your approach. What have you been able to find out so far and what are you initial impressions?'
- Give advice or offer ideas. These may be taken up or, equally important, rejected. There may be even better ways to do it! The process of coaching through delegation is about helping the member of staff to develop new skills rather than simply adopt your way of doing things.
'Have you had a chance to talk to some of the other people there - perhaps the ones who spend a lot of their time working on this system? They might be able to shed some different light on the issue that the main client hasn't been able to see. What do you think?'
- Offer your continuing support - but don't necessarily insist upon it, since part of the aim will also be to help develop independence of thought and development.
'When I was there last, I met one of the operations staff who has been there for a number of years. If you think it will help, I can call them and introduce you or at least get their name and contact details for you. Let me know.'
At the end of the process
Again, it's important to talk together in order to thank and congratulate your coachee for work well done where appropriate and to encourage them to reflect and learn from the experience. At this point it is important to offer feedback on their activities - another important coaching skill that we will examine later on.
What can go wrong?
Delegating tasks as a manager can go badly wrong. You can now read a light-hearted look at the pitfalls of delegation.
This process of self-reflection and self-evaluation is an important part of self-development. It is also a powerful process that supports your coaching activities. But reflection is a little more than simply asking yourself 'How am I doing?' or 'How did that go?'
You can read more about this process in the resource that we have provided on reflection.