3 Powerful Ways to Coach a Happier Team

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Your team is no longer sitting a few steps away from your desk. Just like you, they’re in their home office or at their kitchen table, shackled to their screens for one Zoom meeting after another. And they might be tired of seeing your face after the morning check-ins, the evening or end-of-week check-outs, and the occasional virtual team lunch.

It was never easy being a coach rather than a supervisor to your teams, and now it’s gotten even harder.

Still, you know being a coach and mentor to your employees is important. The COVID-crisis is taking a toll on employees. Even before the first lockdown, Gallup reported that 28% of Americans felt burned out at work ‘often’ or ‘very often’, and that number has only gone up in the past year.

More engaged employees mean an increased sense of happiness at work, higher productivity and customer satisfaction, better retention rates and an improved employer brand, and as a result of it all, higher profitability.

More than that though, you want to be the kind of leader that inspires their team. The kind of manager that team members come to when they need help or when they’re celebrating their success. Seeing your team at their best—connected and passionate—is what drives your satisfaction too, at the end of the day.

Here are 3 actions you can take to become a better coach for your employees. And as a bonus, we found 2 amazing tools you can use with your team to achieve that aspiration.

Be specific about what you don’t want

1. Coach your team by setting business goals

Google uses it, as do start-ups and other businesses of all sizes. Adopting OKR, or “Objectives and Key Results”, seems like a no-brainer, and a great place to develop business coaching skills as a leader. 

Setting direction for the team through OKR is more tangible than a vision or company strategy (even if those are obviously important elements for your organization to have). OKR works with quarterly objectives for your team. These objectives tend to be qualitative and relevant for the longer term, while the Key Results they get translated to, need to be measurable goal posts to reach. The Key Results trickle down in week plans for your team and its individual team members.

Say your objective is to increase customer satisfaction. 

Key results for your team could include increasing the NPS (“Net Promotor Score”) score by 3 points, and to consistently perform 20 customer feedback interviews per month. Every person on the team can see how their roles attribute to achieving key results, and in the end, the objectives. Jim may be responsible for a number of the feedback interviews, while Yasmina is on the data analytics team to measure NPS and datamine the surveys.

Keep the key results and supporting initiatives SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable, i.e. make sure you can obtain your goal within a specified timeframe
  • Relevant, i.e. make sure they link back and contribute to the overall objective
  • Time-based, i.e. set a realistic yet ambitious end-date

As a result of setting OKR, you can have meaningful coaching conversations with your team members about the success they achieved, the skills they may need to develop, or the problems they encounter—related to actual business goals and specific examples that matter. All the while, both you and your employee know that every action contributes to your strategic objectives. After all, having purpose is a key element to happiness at work.

Need a tool to help with OKR goal-setting? We tested Weekdone for you, and found it to be an intuitive, visual way to set objectives, key results, initiatives and week plans for your teams. You can easily track progress, and have one-on-one feedback conversations based on achievements and business results. 

Bonus? It’s free for teams of up to three people.


2. Keep your finger at the pulse by asking the right questions

It’s hard to implement an open-door policy when your team is scattered, but you can open the door to conversations by asking the right questions. And being genuinely interested in the answers. An important, simple, and powerful one to start the coaching conversation is, “What support do you need?”

Switch it up at your next Zoom meeting and forgo the usual “How are you?” at the start. Instead, ask your team members to write one word in the chat that describes what they’re feeling and give everyone a minute to read through the responses. 

In your next debrief meeting, ask “What did you do for work this week that you loved?” to tap into fulfilling and meaningful experiences of the people on your team. Positive emotions open up space for dialog and can help with more vulnerable parts of the conversation later on.


3. Use feedback as a foundation for coaching

Feedback is a gift—if you give it in the right way. It’s also a two-way street: provide your team members with the opportunity to ask and give feedback within the team and to you.

Here are some basics of good feedback as the starting point for your coaching conversations:

  • Make feedback specific and timely—ideally using a recent example, or providing feedback on the spot.
  • Keep feedback as objective as possible (”Here’s what happened, and this is the perception I had”), rather than a vague or interpretative statement.
  • Don’t limit feedback to the things you want to see improve; include feedback about something your employee did that added value or impressed you.
  • Offer to help after delivering feedback. This is where the coaching truly starts.

Need a tool to start virtual feedback conversations within your team? Companies like trivago and Dyson use Officevibe, a free tool that offers pulse surveys, anonymous messaging and feedback, and collaborative and individual goal-setting.

How do you coach employees in a time of remote work? Have you found a way to translate your usual approach into a virtual setting, or has the changing environment gotten you to innovate? If you want to discuss coaching tools for your team with our coaches, contact us here.

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Ellen Bracquiné Ellen BracquinéThis post is written by Ellen Bracquine. Ellen writes articles, websites, and other content for businesses based on thorough research and a strong belief in the power of words. She uses her 10+ years of experience as a consultant and talent manager at McKinsey to provide value for her clients. Copywriter by day, she turns fiction writer by night. Get to know her better at https://ellenbracquine.com