Every year, Gallup conducts a study on employee engagement and issues a State of the Workplace report (registration required). Would it surprise you to know that employee engagement has hovered around 30% for years? That means that more than two-thirds of the American workforce is either coasting or significantly unengaged. Why should we care about that? Because it’s well proven that employee engagement is directly tied to key business outcomes, most notably profitability.
So, how do we get the members of our team more engaged? There are a number of things that collectively can move the needle, but if you could only pick one thing that would get you the biggest bang for your buck, it’s creating a coaching culture and teaching your leaders and managers how to have a coaching conversation.
First, let’s define coaching. Or, better yet, let’s define what coaching is not. Coaching isn’t telling people what to do. Rather, it’s helping the employee come up with their own answers. The key to an effective coaching conversation is asking the right questions in the right way and at the right time.
I like to use the GROW model to help frame a coaching conversation. It’s simple and intuitive. With practice, it can become second nature for how you engage and guide employees. Managers can use the GROW model to help employees solve problems, establish and reach career goals, address issues or simply make better decisions.
GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options and Wrap-Up. Here’s how the four-step process works.
Goal: This first step is all about establishing the goal of the conversation. Is it a performance goal, a problem to solve or a decision to make? The key question here is what do you want to achieve? In every step, you want to be sure to ask clarifying questions and listen attentively.
Reality: Here we want to understand what is happening now and if there’s any relevant history or backstory. Key questions might be: Where are you today relative to your goal? Or: What have you already done; what’s worked and what hasn’t? In these first two steps, you’re simply establishing the who, what, where, when and why of the situation. It’s important in each phase that the questioning not be rapid fire but rather a cadence of questioning that gives the employee space and time to reflect and think.
Options: Now we move into the problem solving phase. This is where we want to ideate with the employee as to what their options might be moving forward. Key questions are: What are your choices? What else can you do? Be sure to ask creative questions that are thought-provoking and challenge the employee to think outside the box. Also, remember, while you may have solutions to offer, you should be careful not to force your answers or grow impatient with the employee’s pace for their own discovery. By asking the right questions, you can help the employee to carefully consider all options.
Wrap-up: This is the last step in the model where you want to gauge commitment and help the employee establish a plan. The key question is: What are you going to do and in what timeframe? You want to get the employee to commit to specific action steps — or maybe it’s simply the next step. The point is to get a commitment and to agree when you will get back together for a progress report so you can hold them accountable.
The GROW model is a powerful framework to understand the key elements of a coaching conversation, but it’s important to recognize that it often doesn’t follow a neat sequential path. The more you practice, the more confident you will become to move comfortably within the framework until it becomes a natural, conversational flow for both you and the members of your team. Ultimately, the true measure will be empowered and engaged employees and positive business outcomes.