Coaching Tips

To be a good leader you must know and master multiple leadership styles, from democratic to commanding, affiliative, coaching etc. To know when and how to apply them.

When it comes to “coaching”, I had difficulties seeing this syle in a business environment since I was easily connecting it to sports. The second challenge was to understand and differentiate between mentoring and coaching.

To help others who go through similar struggles and want to improve their coaching skills, I extracted the tips from the book “Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell” by Eric Schmidt.

Check them out and share your experience in becoming a great coach to your team.

  • Your title makes you a Manager. Your people make a leader.
    People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of the manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great things, and come o work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect and trust.Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow.
    Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company.
    Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.
  • It’s the people
    The top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of her people.
  • Start with trip reports
    To build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports, or other types of more personal, non-business topics.
  • 5 words on a whiteboard
    Have a structure for 1:1s, and take the time to prepare for them, as they are the best way to help people be more effective and grow.
  • The throne behind the round table
    The manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get geared and considered, and, if necessary, o break ties and make the decision.
  • Lead based on first principles
    Define the “fist principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for he company or product, and help guide the decisions from those principles.
  • Manage the aberrant genius
    Aberrant geniuses – high performing but dificult team members – should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues and teams.
  • Money’s not about money
    Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company
  • Innovation is where the crazy people have stature
    The purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. Al the other components are in service to product.
  • Heads help high
    If you have to let people go, b generous, treat them well, and celebrate their accomplishments.
  • Bill on boards
    It’s the CEO’s job to manage boards, not the other way around.
  • Coach only the coachable
    The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.
  • Practice free-form listening
    Listen to people with your full and undivided attention. Don ‘t think ahead to what you’re going to say next. And Ask questions to get to the real issue.
  • No gap between statements and fact
    Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately.
  • Don’t stick it in their ear
    Don’t tell people what to do; offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.
  • Be the evangelist for courage
    Believe in people more than they believe in themselves, and push them to be more courageous.
  • Full identity front and center
    People are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.
  • Work the team, then the problem
    When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.
  • Pick the right players
    The top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy, and a team-first attitude.
  • Pair people
    Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.
  • Get to the table
    Wining depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.
  • Solve the biggest problem
    Identify the biggest problem., the “elephant in the room” bring in front and center, and tackle it first.
  • Don’t let the bitch session last
    Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.
  • Winning right
    Strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork, and integrity.
  • Leaders lead
    When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.
  • Fill the gaps between people
    Listen, observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people.
  • Permissions to be empathetic
    Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about people.
  • The lovely reset
    To care about people you have too care about people: ask about their lives outside of work, understanding their families, and when things get rough, show up.
  • The percussive clap
    Cheer demonstrably for people and their successes.
  • Always build communities
    Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected.
  • Help people
    Be generous with your time, connections, and other resources.
  • Love the founders
    Hold a special relevance for – and protect – the people with the most vision and passion for the company
  • The elevator chat
    Loving colleagues in the workplace may be challenging, so practice it until it becomes more natural.

Performance Conversations

Questions can be a powerful tool in shaping the performance and behavior of your directs. After reading “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr, I extracted some great questions that I plan to use during 1:1 meetings or performance evaluation phases. Check them out and read the whole book, as it is definitely worth it.

Goal Planning and Reflection

  • What OKRs do you plan to focus on to drive the greatest value for your role, your team and/or the company?
  • Which of these OKRs aligns to key initiatives in the organizations?

Progress Updates

  • How are your OKRs coming along?
  • What critical capabilities do you need to be successful?
  • Is there anything stopping you from attaining your objectives?
  • What OKRs need to be adjusted or added, or eliminated in light of shifting priorities?

Manager-led Coaching

  • What behaviors or values do I want my report to continue to exhibit?
  • What behaviors or values do I want the report to start or stop exhibiting?
  • What coaching can I provide to help the report fully realize his or her potential?
  • What part of your job most excites you?
  • What (if any) aspect of your role would like to change?

Upward Feedback

  • What are you getting from me that you find helpful?
  • What are you getting from me that impedes your ability to be effective?
  • What could I do for you that would help you be more successful?

Career Growth

  • What skills or capabilities would you like to develop to improve in your current role?
  • In what areas do you want to grow to achieve your career goals?
  • What skills or capabilities would you like to develop for a future role?
  • From a learning, growth and development standpoint, how can I and the company help you get there?

Preparing for Performance Conversations

  • What were the contributor’s main objectives and responsibilities in the period in question?
  • How has the contributor performed?
  • If the contributor is underperforming, how should he or she course-correct?
  • If the contributor is performing well or exceeding expectations, what can I do to sustain a high level of performance without burnout?
  • When is the contributor most engaged?
  • When is the contributor least engaged?
  • Over the next six months, what should the contributor’s focus be? Meeting expectations in his or her current role? Maximizing contributions in the current role? Or preparing for the next opportunity – be it a new project, expanded responsibility, or new role?

OKR – Objectives and Key Results

How do you adapt fast to an ever-changing market and build great products? Lots of companies like Intel, Google, and many others are faced with this question, and when going through their answers, a particular pattern appeared around the term of OKRs.

Focus and prioritization, alignment between team members, accountability, and goal awareness throughout the company are some of the reasons why it proved to be the right answer for many of them.

So what are OKRs?

The term comes from “Objectives and Key Results” and it appeared initially at Intel, where Andy Grove developed this concept during the time where the company was facing one of their biggest challenges in the battle with Motorola around microprocessors.

To explain the beauty and simplicity of the framework I will use an excerpt from the hands of their creator:

Andrew Grove – “The Father of OKR”

Now, the two key phrases . . . are objectives and the key result. And they match the two purposes. The objective is the direction: “We want to dominate the mid-range microcomputer component business.”That’s an objective. That’s where we’re going to go. Key results for this quarter: “Win ten new designs for the 8085” is one key result. It’s a milestone. The two are not the same. . . .The key result has to be measurable. But at the end you can look, and without any arguments: Did I do that or did I not do it? Yes? No? Simple. No judgments in it. Now, did we dominate the mid-range microcomputer business? That’s for us to argue in the years to come, but over the next quarter we’ll know whether we’ve won ten new designs or not.

If you want to find out the whole history around the creation of OKRs and the challenges that Intel was facing at that time, I recommend checking out the book “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr. You will also find many other success stories and examples of ambitious and inspiring objectives from companies like Google, Youtube, Adobe and many more.

Examples of OKRs

Objective: Develop the next generation client platform for web application
Key Result: Chrome reaches 20 million seven-day active users


Objective: We should make the web work as smoothly as flipping through a magazine
Key Result: Make javascript execute 10x faster


Objective: We own product delivery and we learn every time
Key Results:

  • 100% of releases have a retro
  • 0 customer-reported bugs
  • 0 repeat production bugs

Objective: Continue to build a world-class team
Key results:

  • Recruit 10 engineers
  • Hire a commercial sales leader
  • 100% of candidates feel they had a well-organized, professional experience even if we did not extend an offer

Objective: We attract, retain, and enable the best people to operate at their best

Key Results:

  • Every team has OKRs and achieves 85% of key results
  • 80% of people feel we value their growth and development
  • We achieve 90% of our hiring plan and all roles have a defined ramp plan
  • 100% of employees have 360 reviews

Now, coming back, let’s take a look at the main qualities of OKRs.

Objectives are:

  • Ambitious – Inspiring objectives help align the team around a common purpose.
  • Qualitative – Instead of being measurable or quantitative, qualitative objectives give freedom to interpret. Remember, they represent the direction, not the amount of results that your team had.
  • Time-bound – Objectives should take at least one month to complete; otherwise, they are not ambitious enough and relate more to daily or weekly tasks. The most common durations are a quarter, a half, or an entire year. My personal preference is quarterly for extra flexibility.
  • Actionable by the team – There is a high level of frustration when an objective cannot be completed, because the ball is in another team’s court and/ or out of their priorities. Tip: I recommend building cross-functional teams that have a mix of skills so you can always achieve the required progress and reduce the chances of getting blocked.

Objectives are always accompanied by key results that are:

  • Measurable and quantifiable
  • Make the objective achievable
  • Lead to objective grading
  • Difficult, but not impossible

MBO vs OKRs

A big difference from the classic MBOs (management by objectives) is that OKRs are driven bottom-up. Each team member is asked to define what in his opinion represents the right objective for his team. Managers will also have prepared one or two objectives, but in the end the whole team discusses and agrees on what will be the next OKRs that they will strive for.

When defining them, objectives must be “uncomfortable existing ones,” as a top manager at Google likes to call them. This means that by default, they are challenging goals, and from the beginning, the team should feel that they have a 50% chance of achievement. When they are ambitious and inspiring, they can put forth the best of themselves and think outside of the box to come up with smart and unique solutions.

When Intel moved away from MBOs

After creating and setting the OKRs, the next phase is the execution. Christina Wodtke in her book “Radical Focus” shares valuable advice along with a great execution framework. She explains that there must be a system where every week the team checks progress, prioritizes and does only the right things.

She talks about two main meetings: The planning meeting on Monday morning and the Weekly Wins Meeting on Friday evening. She recommends this routine to enforce focus only on work that has an impact on the quarterly OKRs. This prevents the team from chasing “golden apples.” She uses this term to define other useful ideas or actions that do not help in achieving the primary purpose of the company.

OKRs must not be connected to performance evaluations, bonuses or other kinds of financial compensation. This is one of the most common mistakes that companies fall into, and it has negative consequences on their people and their results. We want all team members to “reach for the stars.” When people have their OKRs connected to bonuses, some of them will start “sandbagging” them or playing defensively or negotiating with their managers to make them “more realistic” to a level that the results are nothing out of the ordinary. Intrinsic motivation becomes extrinsic motivation, and the pursuit and the drive to achieve incredibly great things quickly fades away.

For more on common hurdles when implementing OKRs check out this Quora answer here.

OKRs adoption trend in the industry continues to rise. More and more companies are adopting and applying them across departments, components, and levels.

They are a great tool to fulfill a company vision or strategic mission and must be part of the toolbox of every successful executive or manager.

If you want to learn more, I collected a list of resources that helped me understand the concept, and I can gladly recommend:

Resources

Note: Some of the book links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.


Also published on Medium and LinkedIn.