A nurse is coming to the office consistently late. Patients always leave positive remarks about the politeness and friendly demeanor of your receptionist. Your medical billing assistant struggles being assertive with the insurance company representatives. How do you, as a practice manager, handle these situations?

Within the last few years, the way managers interact with their staff has evolved greatly. Continuous change, personal empowerment, a greater emphasis on teamwork and the need for flexibility now require additional competencies of leaders and managers. Coaching has become one of the most effective ways to work with people in today’s workplace. Leading with a “command and control” approach is simply no longer effective as more staff members have become responsible for their own results. Job-specific training and rigid procedures can no longer help people cope with the ever increasing demands in health care.

The coach approach prepares people to make the most of their skills and recognize the opportunities that best suit their talents. It moves them from motivation to action. Research and experience have shown that employees perform better when positively coached, rather than being constantly evaluated.  Employees with a more positive attitude are much more likely to succeed in their jobs.

So what is coaching?

Coaching is a focused conversation process that creates an environment for individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained performance. In this way, the focus is not only on the “what,” but also on the “who.” Corporate Coach U defines coaching “as the process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge and opportunities they need to achieve effectiveness in their commitment to themselves, the organization and their work.”

What do coaching managers do?

Managers who coach and who actively help their employees learn and grow display the following important characteristics and responsibilities. They often:

Possess a coaching mindset

Coaching managers gain a clear sense of what can be accomplished by leading a group engaged in learning about how to work more effectively. They realize that they will be more successful by building an organization that not only focuses on results but on the people who create the results.

Create a coaching-friendly environment

When people are punished for making honest mistakes or discouraged from being open with their questions and concerns, companies are not leveraging their employees. Coaching managers who want to encourage learning have to cope with the frustration they may sometimes feel, knowing that they could have done a task faster, better or cheaper themselves. However, effective coaches need to try to stay on the sidelines.

Ask effective questions, then listen

Rather than providing instant feedback right away, coaching managers ask powerful questions to encourage others to reflect on the situation and assess themselves. Asking good questions encourages employees to think for themselves and take ownership, yet also gives the coaching manager the opportunity to let employees know what he or she is thinking. A manager once remarked: “you learn the most amazing things when you get them to think about how they are doing. I have people who come up with far better ideas about what they are doing right or wrong than I often could.” Listening requires the control of holding back your own ego from answering the question, and having a certain tolerance for silence. Listening conveys respect because once the person responds, you have to respect the answer.

Offer supportive feedback

Feedback is one of the most critical requirements for sustained high-level performance. It is provided to produce breakthroughs in results and breakthroughs for people. Feedback needs to be timely, clear, specific and directed towards what the employee is working on. Without frequent feedback, performance varies and often fails.

Practice managers who are incorporating coaching skills in their everyday work will not only experience a heightened sense of fulfillment, but also help their employees achieve greater accomplishments for themselves and the organization.

How can managers acquire coaching skills?

There are many learning methods of coaching skills; among them, I recommend the following:

  1. Reading references.
    Literally dozens of books line the shelves these days dedicated to the topic of coaching. Almost all of them are written about how to acquire coaching skills.
    John Whitmore: “Coaching for Performance”
    Ferdinand F. Fournies: “Coaching for Improved Work Performance: How to get better results from your employees”
    Robert Hargrove: “Masterful Coaching”
  1. Attend a seminar.
    Seminars are the most time-effective way to learn coaching skills with immediate feedback from a professional coach / seminar leader. The combination of theoretical knowledge, role plays and practical application sets the optimal foundation for instant skill transfer into the workplace. The Coaching Clinic®, developed by Corporate CoachU International, is the most comprehensive coach training for managers available today; it can be taught in a 1-day or 2-day format.
  1. Hire a coach.
    It is a good idea and effective approach for a manager to have a coach. By doing so the manager has a sounding board to role-play conversations and strategize actions. Simultaneously, she learns the coaching methods by consciously observing her coach during the sessions.

About the author:
Iris Grimm is the creator of the Balanced Physician Coaching and Training Program. She is also a Certified Coaching Clinic® Facilitator teaching managers the fundamentals of coaching skills. Iris can be reached at 770-428-2334 or at www.BalancedPhysician.com.