Coach Them Well: What birds can teach us about leadership…

Did you ever wonder why mother birds “push” their children out of the nest? Naturalists say that mother birds use tools like food to coax babies in learning to fly. Through this process, the mother birds teach their newly hatched offspring that the journey to get food, (even after a fall) becomes easier over time. Great coaches and project managers use the same methodology to empower their teams.

Coaches inspire greatness from their teams by communicating and leading with warmth and purpose. They know that by replacing the top-down dynamic, their team is encouraged to participate on a deeper level in communication and strategies to drive the company (and its mission) forward.

Most project managers know that every project presents an opportunity for growth, both for team members and for project managers themselves to shift into a coaching role. When project managers become coaches instead of bosses, they help their teams learn to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant in moving tasks forward.

Here are five ways you can coach your team to success:

1. Ask open-ended questions, allowing your team to innovate new solutions.

One sure way to ensure your team is engaged and provide an opportunity for them to share creative ideas is asking open-ended questions. Unlike questions that give people limited options for response, these inquiries will encourage your team to express their opinions and ideas. When you listen to what they have to say, showing interest and respect for their input, it shows you care and the impact can be significant. Drop the “yes” and “no” questions if you really want to get the best out of your team. Here are 3 questions to try:

· How do you feel about your part of this project — are there any opportunities or gaps we haven’t addressed?

· Tell me about a similar project you completed in the past. Is there something we haven’t considered?

· What can I do as a leader to help you be more successful?

2. Be very descriptive and clear about a project’s goals and use language to help them understand how their tasks support the overall goal.

As a leader, engaging with your team members and connecting their efforts to the larger business goals can directly impact the bottom line. Disengaged employees can cost companies billions of dollars per year. Let’s face it, no one likes to feel like they are working in a silo. Employees have better outcomes when they feel passionate about their part in the overall mission.

3. Choose your words carefully. Make everything actionable and measurable when describing a task.

Words matter. Using certain words can alienate or create tension while others encourage. Start a project off by using action words and a collaborative “we” sentiment to keep everyone focused and motivated. Understand what type of language excites and inspires your team and use it generously. It’s also crucial to ensure each team member clearly knows their role and what success looks like for them.

4. Encourage your team to be open to new ideas and perspectives.

If you’re serious about creating an environment in which employees are encouraged to speak up, then openly declare that, and make it clear that dialogue is a priority. Change stirs up emotional responses that often cause people to pull back rather than lean in. Inspiring and enabling your team to affect change requires having conversations that move people from reaction to action. By setting the tone in your culture that each voice is important, you’ll receive buy-in as well as engagement.

5. Allow your team to talk freely and openly so that new ideas will flow.

Let your team know you welcome ideas at any time, in any form: in a suggestion box; by e-mail, voicemail or text; at staff meetings or during hallway conversations. This encourages people to share their ideas in the first flush of enthusiasm, so that good ideas don’t end up on the back burner where they may be forgotten.

Coaching and teaching self-sufficiency have a powerful reciprocal effect. When a team learns to become more independent, the project manager also finds more time to think strategically and can align what their team is doing with the business’ overall mission.

Whether your team is readying for a big project or heading back into the office together for the first time in months, now is the perfect time to solidify great leadership and clear communication — your 2021 goals are at stake. Clear, concise communication can coach better employee productivity to create higher performing teams.

About Kevin Torf

Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group, has been a renowned innovator and thought leader in the technology industry for over 35 years, specializing in large-scale IT strategic planning, project design and implementation. Kevin brings decades of experience in complex application deployment, IT architecture, electrical engineering and data center construction, infrastructure and consolidation, particularly within the healthcare space.

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Co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group, Kevin Torf has been a renowned innovator and thought leader in the technology industry for over 35 years.

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