LEADERSHIP | How to Effectively Coach Your Nonprofit Employee

publication date: Dec 15, 2021
author/source: Kathy Archer

As a nonprofit leader, If you've got a problem employee, you want to "fix" them. That's human nature.

Angela was my problem employee. She drove me nuts! My frustration with her created a lot of angst inside of me that spilled out onto my team.

When I started coach training, I wanted to use coaching to fix her. But what I learned is that coaching isn't about fixing people. Instead, it takes what's already right with them, their strengths and their potential, and helps them to make the most of their skills.

But, to effectively coach someone - they have to be open to it. Angela was not.

With Angela, I needed to have a performance or corrective conversation. I needed to review expectations, do a bit of training and then hold her accountable to do the role she was hired to do.

But Cynthia was a whole different story.

Cynthia was eager to learn, interested in growing and always seeking feedback. She wasn't lacking in her performance. She was ready for the next level!

The difference between a corrective and a coaching conversation is this:

  • A corrective conversation is when something is wrong, and you need to draw someone's attention to it and hold them accountable for fixing it.
  • A coaching conversation is helping someone reach their potential.

And so, I chose to practice my coaching skills with Cynthia!

Coaching in three steps

Before I could have a coaching conversation with Cynthia, I had to do a couple of things.

First, (Step 1) I had to think about, and identify, her strengths and consider how she could grow into her potential.

Then, (Step 2) I had to help her see these same strengths and potential, pointing her in the right direction, or maybe just open her eyes to what she already knew.

Before I go any further, let me say this as a coach. To get to where I am, I have taken a ton of training and practiced a lot! There are many skills involved in coaching, and asking questions is only one of them. But just as a doctor asks what hurts, you can use coaching skills to develop your employee.

This is where asking powerful coaching questions (Step 3) comes in. Learning how to ask questions, determining what kind of questions to ask, and when to ask them are part of understanding how to use coaching questions as a leader.

Michelle Maloy Dillon, a fellow coach, talks about how curiosity is your superpower when you ask powerful coaching questions. From Michelle, you can learn what kind of questions to ask and a few no-nos that you'll want to stay away from.

The impact of coaching on Cynthia

Cynthia walked into our first coaching conversation a bit apprehensive. I was honest with her about practicing some new skills with her. However, within moments of asking her a couple of questions, I could sense a shift in her. Cynthia was sitting up taller, was engaged in the conversation and animated with her passion for the work.

As time passed, I continued to use coaching questions in our conversations, Cynthia continued to grow. She remained engaged in the work, committed to the clients and the role and took over when I left the position!

The impact of coaching on me

I quickly learned by using coaching skills that I did not need to fix her. I didn't need to have all of the answers, nor did I need to solve all the problems. Instead, I could ask questions, allowing her to answer and letting her inner knowledge and wisdom emerge. It took a ton of pressure off me as a leader, and I began to enjoy my job more.

You already know how to ask questions. Tweak them a bit, and you'll find excellent results!

Leadership Development Coach Kathy Archer helps women develop confidence, maintain their composure and lead with integrity! She is the author of Mastering Confidence and the host of the Surviving to Thriving podcast. Kathy blogs for women leading in nonprofits at www.kathyarcher.com/blog


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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