As the generational balance shifts in the workplace, many young managers are moving into advisory roles and offering guidance to seasoned professionals. While it's intimidating to work with highly experienced subordinates, all employees have something to learn and can benefit from job coaching. To overcome your fears, think of job coaching as a joint performance evaluation designed to help you and your subordinates set goals as a team.
Be a Gracious Listener
Seasoned employees are typically confident about their abilities and expect to be treated as equals. The last thing they want to do is listen to lecturing from an inexperienced know-it-all. Try not to monopolize the conversation or speak in an instructive tone, because employees aren't your students. Instead, thank employees for their time and effort, and invite them to discuss their personal milestones and aspirations.
Active listening helps you understand what's important to employees and feed off their energy. Set a gracious tone early on, and make employees feel like respected peers who can comfortably open up to you.
Spark Discussion With Thoughtful Questions
Make job coaching a two-sided, productive conversation by asking questions that encourage self-reflection. Rather than saying, "I've noticed you working long hours lately," ask "how do you feel you're managing your time?" Don't steamroll over subordinates, as the goal is to energize them and foster a forward-looking mindset. Letting employees work through their ideas out loud spurs internal growth, making workers more likely to take ownership of any insights they gain in a performance evaluation.
Avoid Accusatory Statements
Criticism is hard for most people to hear, but especially when it comes from someone employees perceive as ignorant. Avoid negative statements that could put workers on the defensive, and focus on the next steps employees plan to take to move forward with their career goals. Job coaching should inspire ongoing improvement, so you don't want to cause a decline by making seasoned workers feel inadequate. If you're checking in with employees who are already on a performance action plan, prompt them to reflect on their progress to keep the conversation neutral.
Ask Permission to Give Feedback
Show consideration for an employee's feelings and expertise. Instead of offending workers with uncensored opinions, ask if they're open to hearing constructive feedback. Try a statement such as, "I have a recommendation you might find useful. Would you like to talk about it when it's convenient for you?" Leading with humility is an effective way to ease tension, and employees are able to mentally prepare for job coaching when you allow them to choose the time and place.
To get the most out of job coaching, employees need to meet with you regularly to discuss how they're implementing positive changes. Make it clear that you're invested in seasoned employees and value their expertise. If you welcome honest questions and feedback, experienced workers are more motivated to use job coaching to learn, grow and solve problems.
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