When I was a nonprofit manager I utilized a professional coach on a regular basis. My coach listened to me, asked me prompting questions, and then provided me suggestions for how to handle situations in new ways.
In Judith Wilson's session this afternoon, she explained the importance of informal coaching. (Workshop presentation and materials here). This means that people like you and I can coach our co-workers, subordinates, and supervisors. She explained that informal coaching is a form of supervision and involves active listening.
I have to say I really struggle with active listening. I am so passionate I often have to remind myself to shut up and listen!...I mean really listen and ask follow up questions. So this session was VERY helpful to me.
Too many times supervision involves reminding employees of tasks and following up with them with the question, why didn't you do that task? There is often a major disconnect between supervisors and employees. This method turns the focus away from the task and onto the solution and next steps. Employees feel empowered with they are part of the solution!
This informal coaching method starts by asking the question to your employee, co-worker, friend: What challenge or opportunity do you need to work on right now?
Next...ask several follow up questions like...what new things would you try? (rather than what did you try to solve the problem) Judith said that asking what they already tried doesn't help people, it only brings them back to square one.
Next...ask the question....what are you going to do next?
Judith said that you can still provide suggestions but in the form of stories and ideas--not on how they should do things differently. **Also, don't take over the conversation**
I like this pro-active version of supervision where the employee comes up with the solution and next steps. Additionally, in this way employees are not micromanaged.
We got to try this method with a partner and it really works.
I personally think that all forms of supervision should be coaching.
Judith also wrote the book Coaching Skills for Nonprofit Managers and Leaders: Developing People to Achieve the Mission