Think about how you work with your staff from day to day. Do you focus on employees’ technical excellence and how well they provide client service? If so, you’re not alone. Many advisors manage their staff this way. But while this approach supports ongoing operations and will yield success, learning how to effectively coach your employees could do a lot more to motivate your staff and maximize their—and your business’s—potential.
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How Is Coaching Different?
Being a coach, as opposed to being a boss, requires having open and honest discussions with staff members about their goals and performance. The dialogue should be ongoing and tailored to the needs and unique talents of each employee. With an open channel of communication, you’ll have ample opportunity to identify concerns and work toward solutions.
For example, if you conduct regular weekly or biweekly staff meetings to assess performance, ask yourself whether you’re motivated mostly by obligation. Are the meetings productive? What would staff say about them? Rather than being a bore, meetings should engage employees with relevant information and give them a chance to share ideas and opinions. If your staff’s job satisfaction increases, so will your firm’s productivity.
A Path to Success
The ability to effectively coach your employees doesn’t happen on the fly; it must be a well-thought-out process. Here are seven essential steps to success:
1) Build mutual trust. An effective coaching relationship requires a foundation of trust between advisors and their staff. To build this, make sure your staff understands what you wish to achieve through coaching. Provide details about how each staff member’s role fits into the big operational picture. Your people need to understand your goals to feel a connection to your firm. Once mutual trust is established, nurture it by keeping coaching consistent. Soon you’ll be able to address difficult topics during coaching sessions.
2) Clarify your intent. Speak openly with staff about why you’re using coaching. Emphasize that coaching is about growth and development rather than past performance. This is especially helpful when your goal is to improve performance shortfalls. Asking open-ended questions in a clear, nonjudgmental way will help engage staff members rather than making them defensive. Here are some good examples:
- What motivates you to do your job well? What do you see as a roadblock?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of? What led to your success?
- If reaching a goal seems challenging, why is that? How can I help you?
3) Establish clear expectations. Change, which comes quickly in our industry, leads to conflicting priorities and shifting goals. To keep everyone on the same page, it’s critical to have open, collaborative discussions that clarify expectations and define the path forward. Start by sharing the firm’s goals if you haven’t already done this. During ongoing coaching sessions, review whether staff goals still align with those of the firm. As necessary, take the opportunity to adjust goals and expectations. When everyone is working with the same purpose, your firm will be in position to achieve the greatest success.
4) Welcome new ideas. Sometimes, people will bring up a thought or idea during a coaching session. Being open to this supports and encourages creativity and innovation. Implementing every new idea is not possible, of course. But if staff members know that their ideas are heard and appreciated, you’ll build their trust and confidence.
5) Regularly review goals. Reviews provide an opportunity to hold staff accountable for their work. SMART goals (i.e., those that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bounded) provide the tools staff need to understand how success (or lack of it) will be measured. They also give you the data required to assess progress toward meeting goals and overcoming roadblocks.
By committing to regular reviews, you’ll be able to stay on top of the ongoing relevance and achievability of everyone’s goals. If something has changed, you and your team can assess whether to adjust a goal or put it on the back burner. When appropriate, encourage employees to choose an alternative goal rather than deciding for them.
6) Provide consistent feedback. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with staff to keep them motivated. Remember to acknowledge and celebrate successes, as this goes a long way toward reinforcing positive behaviors and encouraging employees to keep up the good work. If someone misses a goal, a timely review of the action needed is essential.
7) Talk less, listen more. Advisors and managers often feel obligated to provide answers to every staff inquiry. By immediately trying to find solutions, however, you might miss an opportunity to engage in dialogue. When someone brings up a concern, allow yourself to be silent and just listen. Give staff members time to think through and share all their concerns. By listening instead of talking, you’ll gain a fresh perspective on the challenges at hand.
Remember, though, that in order to effectively coach your employees, you need to have honesty on both sides. If you believe a staff member isn’t sharing what he or she really thinks, try asking open-ended questions like:
- My sense is that you haven’t covered the whole issue—what else is going on?
- Are there other issues causing you to feel this way?
- Do you have any other concerns?
These discussions aren’t easy, but they’ll let staff know you truly want to understand their concerns and help them succeed.
The Domino Effect
To get ahead and stay at the top, advisors should consistently challenge themselves to improve employee engagement and productivity. Coaching is a great way to motivate your staff, increase their job satisfaction, and maximize their performance. Because coaching is collaborative, your performance will be energized and elevated, too. By inspiring everyone at your firm to be at their best, you just may find that your competitive advantage is unlimited!
What practices have you found establish a strong relationship between you and your employees? How else do you encourage staff’s growth and success? Please share below!