One of the most important jobs we have as leaders is to make sure we are coaching successfully with our team members. Unfortunately coaching is sometimes done based solely on process goals rather than looking at the “moments of truth” that we create for our agents during the process. So many things we do and say (or don’t do or don’t say) affect their coaching experience. Our coaching planning and implementation of best coaching practices are both key to being most effective.
There are so many opportunities for us to succeed or fail as coaches that I’ve decided a two-part article would be best to make sure these are well covered.
So, let’s begin!
“Ho-hum… whatever” opening of the coaching session
OK, we know and they know that coaching is a regular ongoing practice, but why start off the session with a sigh or robotic phrases like “I’m going to play some of your calls for you now.” Open with a welcoming smile, a genuine show of interest in them by noting something you have observed them working on or made improvement in since the last session.
Shuffling through papers and not knowing what their last score and skill needs were without reading off a paper, shows a lack of planning and interest. If you aren’t opening with enthusiasm, how do you expect them to be excited about coaching with you?
Telling instead of asking questions
As experienced coaches and managers, we have a lot of knowledge and want to share what we know with our agents during our coaching sessions. We absolutely do need to share tips and knowledge, but sometimes we spend so much time telling that we forget to ask for their input.
Talking too much ends up sounding like a lecture instead of a conversation.
At the start of our coaching we should ask questions:
- What they have been working on and feel they’ve improved
- What they still need help with
- Are they getting positive results with customers using improved skills
During the session ask:
- How do you think the customer felt during this chat?
- Would you do anything differently now that you’ve heard yourself/ read your email again?
- Was this engaging for the customer?
- What do you think you did well here?
Give concrete examples
Are you just repeating dry material from your training manuals or giving them real life examples and applications?
Storytelling is beneficial for learning, so for our coaching of skills it works very well.
- Tell them how you had to deal with a challenging customer and what you did.
- Provide them with a variety of ways to handle situations whenever possible so they can develop their own way of dealing with customers that works with their communication style and still meets the customer experience goals.
- Bring humor into the coaching examples. We can learn and laugh together as long as the laugh isn’t directed at a co-worker or the agent you are coaching with.
Sounding like you are “Skill Perfect”
It’s tempting to want to appear as the “all knowledgeable, perfectly skilled” manager or coach during our sessions in order to make sure that the agent is buying what we are selling regarding skills. However, no one can be held 24/7 to those lofty ideals, so we need to openly admit skills we continue to work on and what we are doing to improve them.
Share things that you have learned from observing or working with others, including agents who had specific skills that they excelled in. Demonstrate for your coached agent that learning never ends.
Taking calls or viewing texts during coaching
Unfortunately I’ve observed coaches looking at their phone for messages, texts and even standing up and leaving the coaching room to take a call while the agent is sitting there.
What message do we send when our coaching isn’t important enough to warrant our full attention?
We are always going to have interruptions and daily fires to put out, but we have to find a way to prioritize coaching too.
- Have you planned for someone to field those important texts and calls for you while you are coaching?
- Will a delay of 10 or 15 minutes while you finish coaching really make the situation worse?
- How would this situation be handled if you were out of the office (vacation)?
Poor body language and behavior
Ever see a coach brush their hair during coaching? I have. Eating lunch while coaching an agent? Yes, I’ve seen that too.
The agent is not only listening to us but they are also observing our body language and behavior during our sessions.
- Eye contact – Are you looking at the agent when speaking or down at your computer or paperwork? Are you watching for the agent’s body language during the call play to see reactions to things they say or the customer says?
- Nervous habits – Pen tapping, swinging a chair back and forth, playing with your hair, and other nervous habits affect the concentration of the agent and takes away from the discussion points you are making.
- Eating – Unless this was scheduled as a special lunch coaching activity where the agent was given lunch too as part of the coaching plan, we should not be eating in front of the agent.
I hope you find these discussions helpful and will use some of your own observations on coaching opportunities. Please stay tuned for Part 2 of my post “Coaching Misses and How to Fix Them.”