Why choosing your words as a leader is so important

- Worker Happiness

by Gisele Navarro

Despite how it may seem from afar, management is rarely about big decisions and heroic moments of inspiration. The greatest part of good management has far more to do with what you say and how you say it – in the tough moments as well as the triumphant ones.

Infographic: Don't say that to your team
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So it is that the coaching style of management has come to be recognized as one of the most effective approaches of the modern leader. In fact, it’s been shown to increase employee engagement and productivity by at least 12%, and is well-regarded by those employees: around four out of five of those on the receiving end of coaching style management reckon it’s helped them.

The coaching style of management requires a mind shift if you’re accustomed to a more traditional boss-employee relationship or you’re in a sector that tends to give the nurturing approach a wide berth. But there are a handful of adjustments you can make, including developing a constructive spin on lines you may find yourself using every day.

Why It’s Better To Ask Questions Instead of Making Statements

Unless you’re offering direct instruction, responding to your employees with a statement tends to shut down the potential for advancement – whether you’re reprimanding them or offering a compliment.

For example, if you notice that one of your employees performed particularly well, it’s good to let them know that you noticed. But a simple compliment such as ‘great job’ doesn’t have much meat on it, and may even come across as an empty nicety. Instead, a coach will see it as an opportunity to build a relationship and skills. You might instead ask what the team-member enjoyed about the task or whether they had any new ideas on how to improve the workflow – or what they want to do next.

If they’re not doing such a good job, a reprimand will only alienate them – particularly if it includes a subtle threat to their livelihood (“I’m not paying you to mess up!”). When you need to take over a task, have them observe, and ask them questions about what you’re doing: Do you know why I’m doing it this way? or What would you do next? This way even the most lacklustre crew member is shown respect but also made to remain engaged with the process, and hopefully learn some, too.

A Case for Having an Open Attitude

The traditional way of doing things is for the boss to issue instructions, demand performance, and walk away. Over recent years, bosses may be more inclined to do so with a softer turn of phrase, but the underlying mechanism remains the same. I say, you do.

The coach should make time for their employees, and not just as a token gesture. Never shut down a request for time or assistance. If you don’t have time for something, acknowledge the request and either book a better time to talk, or find another solution – such as delegating the issue to a colleague.

If you feel the matter that the employee has brought up is irrelevant or a waste of time, it’s better to enquire why they think it’s so important than to dismiss it. The more your crew knows the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your business, the more engaged they will be and the better equipped to figure things out for themselves in the future. That includes genuinely checking that they’ve understood instruction by – guess what – asking (open) questions rather than smiling and moving on.

Transforming yourself from a boss to a coach doesn’t require a full personality overhaul – just a deep breath and an empathetic approach. Try to use the coach approach for a day and you should notice your employees responding positively with immediate effect.

Photo Caption: Andrew Neel via Unsplash

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