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Advanced management skills: facilitation and coaching definitions (Proceedings)

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Oct 01, 2008

Facilitate: To make easier; to help forward; to help the progress of a person.

Coach: A person who trains a team or individual; the act of instructing as a coach.

These are simple words that require extensive learning and practice to do well.

Define your role

If you are a technician or other team member who is in a position to facilitate and coach, then you are a leader. Define your role for yourself and your team. As a technician, your job was defined as "completing tasks" or producing results. In contrast, leaders facilitate others in completing their tasks. Recognize the different focus when you consider tasks versus considering people. It's easy to focus on tasks first, but, what happens when the people don't cooperate? Plan and learn how to deal with people at work.

Look the part

Effective facilitation and coaching require that you are respected by others. It is commonly said that you get respect through your expertise. That's not the end of the story. The way you look, talk, and behave all send instant, subconscious messages to other people. You can influence others' unconscious judgments by being aware of how unconscious "messages" are sent, and deciding what message you choose to send with your voice, clothing, and body language.

Define expectations

Before you begin to coach or facilitate, ensure that everyone knows what is expected. If job descriptions are nonexistent or incomplete, coaching won't solve the problem. If you have no team meeting norms, then it's tough to "manage" a group. Begin by ensuring the foundation is in place.

Be ready to describe what you want. It is easy to confuse personality with behavior. Everyone needs to be considerate of one another, understanding different personalities. Also, each person has a job description that must be met. While it is tough to change others' personalities, you can ask others to change specific behaviors.

Facilitate meetings

Get more out of meetings by learning facilitation skills. First, create a clear agenda, with input from the team. Next, assign roles, which alternate with each meeting: Facilitator, note-taker, timer, and participant. Ask the team to create meeting 'norms' about expected behavior.

The facilitator keeps the conversation on track, ensuring that each agenda item is assigned an action, person, and time frame. The note-taker summarizes discussion and decisions in writing. The timer reminds the group of time frames for each agenda item. The role of participant is to provide input and also to ensure that others give their input.

Why don't people do what we want them to do?

They don't know what they're supposed to do

They don't know how

They are busy doing something else

They aren't recognized or rewarded for doing it

There are no consequences if they don't do it

Teachable moments

How do team members know when they've done well? What happens if they need improvement? A great deal of research supports the fact that people do want this feedback. A "teachable moment" is a moment in time when you give feedback to someone about a recent action. Teachable moments fill the gaps between performance evaluations. Everyone improves faster when they get immediate feedback. People also lose their apprehension about performance evaluations, since they know where they stand most of the time.

To be most effective, teachable moments must be distributed fairly and consistently, with a balance of positive and corrective comments. Yet over 60% of our survey respondents say teachable moments are done inconsistently and administered unfairly. People feel disrespected and lose trust in leaders whose actions are inconsistent. (Are you "easy" on your favorite tech?)