My last blog (“How Many Monkeys Are on Your Back ?“) outlined the all-too-common problems that come from the vicious Manager-Employee Dependence Spin Cycle. In their excellent book, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett outline this virtuous Empowerment and Growth Cycle:
This cycle reverses the downward spiral of Monkey Madness and creates an upward spiral to extraordinary performance. In Chapter Two, “Empty Cup, New Tea,” Jack and Kathleen suggest leaders reflect on these questions to examine their underlying beliefs and mental models on coaching employees:
1. What are your underlying beliefs about your employees — their potential, their contribution, and their interest in growing and developing themselves?
2. How do you believe that you add value in your role in coaching your employees (and colleagues)? Are there other ways to add value that you have not tapped into yet?
3. What would you like your contribution to be? What role would you envision for yourself that would bring out the best version of yourself and your employees?
Based on your responses, this chapter goes on to offer these suggestions to reverse your cycle:
• Ask what support the individual is looking for regarding the problem at hand.
• Ask what solutions the individual has already thought about trying.
• Ask the individual for her assessment of the pros and cons of the path being considered.
• Encourage risk taking and innovation.
• Allow experimentation and solutions that might not have been your first preference.
• Push the authority for larger decisions down to capable employees.
• Reward and support positive improvements.
So the next time one of your team members approaches you with a monkey, respond along the lines of, “That’s an ugly little monkey you’ve got there. How can I help you manage it?” This is step one in shifting from being a zookeeper toward becoming an extraordinary coach.
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