- How can organizations equip their managers to coach?
- How can managers improve the feedback they give their employees?
- Why is psychological safety a major component of a culture of coaching, and how can managers foster it?
Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.
At Gallup, we often say, "Everyone needs a coach." During the Great Resignation, employee retention has been a major focus among organizational leaders, and one important piece of the retention puzzle is to establish a culture of coaching. To do this, leaders first need to understand what the role of a coach is. Then they need to know how to move their managers from being a boss to being a coach. How can organizations invest in their managers to make this goal a reality? And how can managers move toward improving how they coach their employees, including in the areas of feedback, psychological safety and recognition? Gallup Senior Business Solutions Consultant Hannah Lomax shares her insights on how you and your organization can navigate the boss-to-coach journey.
One of the biggest things that we can do is invest in our managers to know themselves. ... CliftonStrengths ... gives them that lens around self-awareness.Hannah Lomax, 11:46
Equipping managers with not only the skills, but the tools that they need to set their teams up for success, makes them feel safe. And then there's that ripple effect down into the teams beyond that.Hannah Lomax, 17:14
Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and welcome to The CliftonStrengths Podcast. On this podcast, we'll be covering topics such as wellbeing, teamwork, professional development and more. Now enjoy this episode. This episode was previously recorded on LinkedIn Live.
Meet Our Guest on This Episode
Jim Collison 0:18
I'm here with Hannah Lomax. Hannah is out of our London office, and, and Hannah, thanks, and welcome to this, this LinkedIn Live!
Hannah Lomax 0:25
Yeah, thank you so much.
Jim Collison 0:26
Hey, let's get to know you a little bit. What do you do for Gallup? What's your role? And tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hannah Lomax 0:34
Yeah, of course. So I'm going to start with my Top 5. It wouldn't be a CliftonStrengths show without that, right. So I lead with Positivity, Futuristic, Learner, Responsibility and Focus. And my title, if you have me on email or LinkedIn, is a Senior Business Solutions Consultant. But what that really means is I partner with business leaders to create organic growth through people practices. So I spend a lot of my time with our incredible coach community out in EMEA; I help leaders to build strengths-based organizations and cultures; I do a lot of work in employee engagement. And it's really just creating workplaces that win.
Jim Collison 1:11
You spend a lot of time doing in Europe what I do here in the United States, as far as keeping the community together. What's your favorite part about that role? Certainly, you talk to a lot of people, you do a lot of things, but what's your favorite part about that role?
Hannah Lomax 1:26
It's the impact. So I love nothing more than hearing from clients, coaches, just people around me, even colleagues, you know, telling me about some of the success stories that they've seen in their own partnerships with clients and coaches is knowing that you're changing lives. And it sounds extreme. But really, when someone gets to know their strengths, it can impact their work. If they're managers, it can impact their teams. But also, we've had some scenarios where, you know, leaders and businesses have been through strengths journeys, and then they've had their whole families go through it, just because they've seen how transformational it can be. So it's those types of stories that really makes me feel lucky to do, to do this job.
What Is the Role of a Coach?
Jim Collison 2:03
Yeah, it's a ton of fun. I've been doing it a long time; I can't seem to get away from it. And it's great to continue to do it. If you're, if you're listening live, continue to put your Top 5 in chat, if you'd like to do that. And we're talking a little bit about coaching. And Hannah, before we dive into the content we have planned, want to ask you about this idea of coaching, because it's become a popular word. You know, 10 years ago, when I started doing this, it wasn't as popular as it is today. When we think about the role of a coach, when you think about the role of a coach -- and we have folks kind of mentioning that here in chat, but -- what are some words that come to mind? What are some ideas that come to mind for you? What's a coach for?
Hannah Lomax 2:43
So I have background, actually, in my past life, before I was in kind of organizational development and employee experience was actually in sport and health and fitness. And I love drawing those parallels, because you think about the most successful sportspeople or teams or anything like that -- they're being coached, right? They have that trusting relationship with somebody that knows them. They know what they're like on their best days, and they know what they're like on their worst days. So I think that role of a coach, it helps people to hold a mirror up in front of themselves, lean in and stretch them a little bit more -- almost that question of, Do you think you could get that goal that you were kind of unsure about before? And it also helps them to really manage those blind spots in a way that feels very safe and comfortable. You know, and something, again, that I personally love about strengths -- and I know that lots of people around me do too -- is that if there are things that you struggle with, if you know that about yourself, you can lean into the things that you're really good at and that you love to do. And you can find partnerships with people that are, you know, almost the opposite of you and that can support you through those tough moments. And I think having a coach to create that vehicle for you is really powerful.
Jim Collison 3:51
Using that sports analogy, sometimes we think a coach maybe yelling at us or making us do sprints, right, those, in a corporate setting, what are you seeing, as we think about the coaching relationships? Because they're all, they're all very different. What kinds of relationships are you seeing, and what's working from a coaching relationship, maybe not the yelling and the sprints?
Hannah Lomax 4:16
So, without the yelling and the sprints, I think there's that Individualization. So if I think about, you know, managers that lead teams, for one particular team member, they might be driven by Competition, right? So that might be in their top, in their top strengths. And they might want things to beat; they might want a scoreboard, you know, they might, they might be coached and pushed and stretched and challenged in a very particular way. The person next to them, they might just want a bit of love and care. You know, they might want a bit of time. They might want some support around building plans or strategies, and managers that know that, they really get the best out of their people. And it's not one-size-fits-all, which is why strengths is just, you know, that, that kind of shortcut into really understanding how you can get the best out of somebody in that coaching relationship.
Coaching and Retention After the Great Resignation
Jim Collison 5:05
I love that term "individualization," because I think it's really important in thinking through what does that person, that individual -- or, if I'm thinking it from my perspective, what do I need? What, what am, sometimes I just need a little push. Sometimes I need just somebody to come along and hold my hand. I don't want them to, but I, but I, that's what I need, right? The, the different, different options, different things that I need. And I think a really good coach can, can kind of feel that, sense it and, or just ask you: What are you looking for, right, in this engagement? Let's talk, and the topic of retention and coaching may seem like they don't fit together, but I think they do. As we think about coming out of this Great Resignation -- and then, all of a sudden, now everybody's naming everything "the Great" whatever, right, in that? But as we think about the Great, the Great Resignation, a lot of organizations are thinking about retention, right? Because it's very expensive to lose individuals and replace them. That's very, very expensive, from an organizational. So what are our clients thinking about right now? And what are we talking about in this area of retention, and how's coaching fit into that?
Hannah Lomax 6:11
Yeah. So I mean, it's crazy at the moment, right? I think everybody that I speak to in my role is either trying to find people or trying to keep people or both. And I feel like there's kind of that balance that we're seeing at the moment between aggressive hiring, you know, how do we get the right people into our company? What makes my company stand out from the competitor next to me? And, ultimately, you know, there are some hygiene factors around maybe the benefits and the pay, but it's the employee experience, it's how that company makes you feel. And then on the other end of the spectrum, you know, you're aggressively hiring and HR are focusing all of their time on recruitment. But you've got to think about the people who are already in the company and doing really well and performing. So you've kind of got to find that balance of getting the right people in and really selling the company as something that, you know, is a great place to work and having mechanisms that are built into making that a great place to work -- you know, not just for the first 6 months, but ongoing.
Hannah Lomax 7:07
And then you've got to kind of balance that out with, and once you're in the company, I have the opportunity to grow and develop and do what I do best -- a lot of the stuff that we talk about in our Q12® employee engagement framework. But I think coaching is really integral, because it doesn't only give you those emotional pieces, right? So I really care about my best friends at work. I show up and I have fun at work because I care about the people around me. I know them; they know me. But also, we've also seen in, and not just Gallup's research, but in lots of research that's happening now, people are leaving because they don't have that chance to develop. And that's what's really tough, because they've got such incredible skill and talent, but almost nowhere to put it, once they've hit that kind of ceiling. So if you have a coach, and they're asking you questions like, "What's next for you?" Right? "What's something that you didn't think you'd be able to achieve that you did, and how could you repeat that again?" And I think coaches are fantastic at bringing out that, that, like you said, that little push in people that you know can reach that, and really stretching them in a way that feels safe and comfortable for them, which, of course, will impact, you know, the business outcomes and the employee experience for everybody around them.
The Manager as (Career) Coach
Jim Collison 8:17
One of the things, what I heard you say in that, and over the last 2 days, we've done two programs on career coaching -- this idea of, I had Dr. Tim Hodges on from UNL [the University of Nebraska-Lincoln]. We talked about resumes and college students. Yesterday, I had Jennifer Vancil on, talking about career coaching from a, from, once you're in an organization. And I had this realization, Hannah, that sometimes we think career coaching only happens at the point when you're looking for a job; where sometimes, career coaching -- and this is kind of what I heard you just say -- needs to be happening as almost, as the job is, in the job right now. Right? I mean, I'm not planning on going anywhere, but I still need to spend some time thinking about my career at Gallup moving forward. That's career coaching. Where does that coaching come from? And in the organizations that are doing it best, how are they doing in a way that's encouraging people to stay?
Hannah Lomax 9:17
Yeah, yeah. So it's the manager, right? And I love the analogy of kids in school in school and teachers I think you learn so much from, from, from children. And actually, you know, kids come home from school, and they say, "I love my new teacher! She really gets me, you know, she, she understands how to really help me and coach me." They try so hard at school. They want to get great results for them. They're excited, and they're, they're enthusiastic when they come home. And it goes the same for managers, right? If you come home from a day where you've had a really terrible manager, you're probably horrible to the people around you. You probably don't care about the problem on your desk that you just left; you, you weren't bothered about fixing it, which may impact colleagues, clients both. But actually, I think that kind of progression really does come from the manager.
Hannah Lomax 10:06
And we also know, and linking back to kind of retention, people leave bad managers, not bad companies, right. So you can have everything wrong with the company, the systems are broken, and, you know, they've got their own problems here and there. But if you care about your manager because your manager cares about you, you will do one more day. And then you'll do one more month, and you'll do one more year. And so I think having that development opportunity from the manager is probably the most powerful that I've, thing that I've seen with clients that I've supported so far. And I know that our coach community reflect that back.
Investing in Managers
Jim Collison 10:38
We'll spend some more time talking about that. Our producer Reilly is behind the scenes. When you put something in chat, she's displaying it. We'd love to have your Top 5 in there. And if you have questions, now would be a great time to do that. Put a little "Q" in the front of it, so we kind of know it's a question, and we'll be able to find it easy. And we'd love your questions for Hannah as we're talking about this. Hannah, when we think about the manager, so we know the manager plays an important role. They're getting, I mean, managers are under an enormous amounts of pressure right now. Right? They're losing individuals; they're not necessarily getting support from their managers in what's happening here. What kind of help is there for the manager, as we think about, they're drowning at the moment. And they're thinking, Ah, how am I gonna get out of this? How can we help them? How can organizations help them get through this time?
Hannah Lomax 11:28
Yeah. And it's so important to invest in the managers, because like you say, Jim, you know, they're losing people they're trying to hire; they've got their own priorities, which often competing demands; no time in the day to actually get their work done, let alone deal with a team member that maybe had an issue themselves or is upset. So I think one of the biggest things that we can do is invest in our managers to know themselves. So something like CliftonStrengths, for example, gives them that lens around self-awareness. And if they've got self-awareness, they can self-regulate, right? So if they're having a moment where they're thinking, Gosh, this is really, really tough, if they know their strengths profile really, really well, and they're maybe even being coached on that, that would be fantastic. They can start to implement some of those mechanisms around, right, when my Positivity is not being fed right now, this is what I need to do. If somebody on my team with high Activator wants an answer immediately, I can use my Achiever to get that to them today. So that's something that I think, is really helpful for managers. And it shows them that we care about them; we want them to go home with a brand new language that they can maybe even use with friends and family. So it kind of has that ripple effect outside of work.
Hannah Lomax 12:37
And then I think the other piece is that we know, again, from some of our research, not everyone is cut out to be a manager. But some people fall into that role because the company didn't want to lose them. So they waved this golden ticket: Hey, don't leave. We'll make you a manager, right? Or actually, we'll pay you more. And the only way to do that is to become a manager. But they were just really good at IT. And now they have all these people sitting underneath them, and they're not sure how to support them. So I think equipping managers with the skills to actually have coaching conversations that speak to the unique strengths of the, of their teams is really foundational and essential, you know, arguably, to set managers up for success, rather than just throwing them into a role where they feel kind of lost.
Giving Managers Tools to Improve Their Feedback
Jim Collison 13:21
We might have some managers listening today. And, of course, nobody wants to admit that -- like, Oh, I'm a little in over my head, or I'm really struggling with this. It's OK. You don't have to admit it. It's OK. But we have some tools that are available as we think about giving, I think the hardest role for a manager oftentimes is giving great feedback, right? They dread it. It's hard. It, I mean, I think most managers would rather, you know, get a root canal than, than give feedback sometimes. It's a difficult thing, especially if it's hard feedback. As we think about some of the tools we have available, some advice we have around giving feedback, can you talk a little bit about that?
Hannah Lomax 13:57
Yeah, absolutely. So feedback looks different for everyone, just like recognition. So it's also two-way. So again, like you said, sometimes managers might struggle with this. It feels quite scary sometimes to be put in that situation where, you know, you're being vulnerable, and you are gonna let some of, some of your walls down. But having that trust is absolutely essential. So if I'm in a situation where I know that I can tell my manager, I'm really struggling with something, and they can give me feedback that's going to help me to develop and that's going to help me to overcome those challenges, then that's gonna make me want to try and do it again and to learn. So creating that psychological safety where it's OK to fail, it's OK to learn, and it's OK to admit that maybe, maybe some managers do admit that they're not sure what they're doing, right. So almost creating and laying the foundations for that kind of trust and psychological safety is, is really important.
Hannah Lomax 14:50
But I think also, and maybe even more than anything, is just create that culture of feedback where we're asking questions, right. So maybe the manager could take the first step, and after something like a performance conversation or maybe a presentation that you do with a team member, "How do you think that went?" "How do you think that went for me?" "How did that feel like that went for you?" "What might we do differently next time?" "How could we prepare better?" "What would set you up for success if we were to do that again tomorrow?" So asking those questions, because people also don't feel like sometimes they have permission to actually give that feedback, so you're opening that door for them. And they're probably going to go home and think, Wow, it's really nice that I was asked that question and that my opinion counts, right -- of course, another one of the Q12 metrics that we know is a need in the workplace. But that conversation becomes more and more comfortable over time. And then you can really individualize on a framework that works for giving that feedback on a regular and meaningful cadence.
Fostering Psychological Safety
Jim Collison 15:50
We'd still love to have your questions. And we got about 10 minutes left, as we are spending time together. Just throw those in the chat, and we'll be able to get those, those questions posted and talked about. As we think about creating a culture. You mentioned the word "psychological safety." We just had a podcast on that a couple of weeks ago. I've been thinking a lot about it. And I think it's a major component, as we create this culture inside an organization of coaching. Because you have to be vulnerable, you also have to provide safety. Can you talk a little bit more about that, from a cultural standpoint? How do you actually go about that? It's easy to say; I think a little bit harder to do. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Hannah Lomax 16:28
Yeah, absolutely. I think psychological safety is knowing that my coach won't yell at me or make me do sprints, right? So I think it's exactly that. And I love that you, I love that you gave that example, right? Because that's what people are afraid of. And, you know, I think the thing that's, that's sometimes quite tough to see is managers might yell, because they've been put in a situation where they're not psychologically safe, right? So they're leading a team, and their team was screaming up and down, saying, We don't have the things that we need to do our jobs, or We don't understand what's expected from us at work -- any of this stuff is going on. And the managers are kind of, sat there like, well, I don't know what to do. No one told me. I just got, I just got promoted because I was going to leave, and otherwise, you know, there was no way out. So I think really equipping managers with not only the skills, but the tools that they need to set their teams up for success, makes them feel safe. And then there's that ripple effect down into the teams beyond that.
Helping Employees Know What's Expected of Them
Jim Collison 17:27
One of the things, when I first started managing, and I underestimated, was the power of expectations -- of knowing what's expected of me, and then knowing that those I'm managing know what's expected of them. It's Q01 in our Q12 survey, "I know what's expected of me at work." And I don't know if I really understood the power of it until I started thinking through that, the lens of that every day for those that I managed. And I started asking, as a manager, I began to ask that question and almost open every conversation with a question similar to that. But do you know what's expected of you? I mean, are you clear on -- when we'd have new employees start, at the end of their first week, I would ask that question: Are you clear on what you're doing here? And if they couldn't answer that, I knew I was the problem at that point, right -- put the pressure on me. How important is that clarity of expectations in this, when we think about this idea of coaching? And in coaching, do coaches, I mean, how important is it that coaches know what's expected in the conversation that's going on?
Hannah Lomax 18:34
Yeah, they absolutely have to. And even better is when they ask their teams, you know, "Do you know what's expected of you?" And their teams say, "Yep, I know what's expected of me." And the manager says, "Tell me in your own words." Because often, there's a disconnect, right? And then the team member might say, "This is what I think is expected of me." And there's a disconnect, and you haven't actually uncovered that. So over here in in the U.K., Jim, our women's England team recently took the Euro 2022 title, right? Super happy about that.
Jim Collison 19:04
They did sprints, by the way; they got yelled at and did sprints.
Hannah Lomax 19:09
But their head coach, when, when that happened, you know, obviously everyone's asking the million-dollar question, right? Like, how did you do this? Women's, the women's England football team, this, this was a really big moment for them. And she said, "Everyone knew what was expected of them." And that coach, she took the time to make sure that everybody knew, even if they were not on the team, even if they weren't a part of the supporting team, everybody knew what was expected of them. And that created accountability for them, because they knew what they had to do, and there was somebody holding them to account to do it. So I think having that conversation is really important.
Hannah Lomax 19:46
And then even further to that, you might say, Once you know what's expected of you, what do you need from me to help you get there, right? So that's where the coaching relationship is so important. An example might be that an expectation is to, I don't know, hit a particular sales goal, for example. And the person knows that. But then if the coach is to say to them, "What do you need to do that and what might get in the way?" and can actually help them navigate some of those circumstances, that's where you start to deepen that relationship and really get the best out of somebody and push them in the direction that maybe they need, they need that little bit of a nudge in.
Jim Collison 20:21
Got a great question from chat. We're gonna come back to the, to this idea of psychological safety. So How can a manager create a culture of psychological safety? Let me throw it to you. While you're thinking about that for a second, let me tell on myself for just one second. So when I was early, when I was managing earlier in my career, I had my manager tell me one time, "Jim, I just need a little more predictability from you." You know, I'm, my, my, kind of all over the place, very unpredictable. And I think that lack of predictability was creating instability and not a culture of psychological safety. People didn't know which Jim was going to show up that day. Right. And I think if we're honest with ourselves, we've all got those moments in our, in us that we know, kind of like, yeah, that's an area I kind of need, I need to do some sprints, maybe, and work on that, right. As we, in light of that, Hannah, what else can we do, or managers, what can they do to provide that psychological safety, that safe place in the organization -- and you said it earlier, where they, where it's OK to fail? Talk a little bit more about that.
Hannah Lomax 21:30
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it's so important. And I think it can be tough for managers, because a lot of people are scared of failure, right? You know, there are definitely moments in, in my career where I've seen clients, colleagues, lots of people go through moments where actually the thought of failing is, is really, really terrifying. But you have to have that trust, in that this is an environment where you will learn something from every experience that you go through. So I think managers can really lay those foundations by saying, you know, Nobody's perfect. As human beings, we're good at beating ourselves up anyway; we're gonna go ahead and do that ourselves if we get something wrong, so we don't need somebody else doing it for us, right. And I think laying the foundations and role modeling, you know, I don't know everything; I'm still learning. And creating a situation where managers say to their teams, If something doesn't feel clear to you, or if something doesn't go well, I want you to come to me. I am here to help you. And that is what I'm paid to do. And that is my job. And I think that's where you can really deepen trust. And it does take time, you know; this, this doesn't happen overnight. But I think that's a really nice way of creating, again, that feedback culture that means people are a little less nervous to actually speak up.
Hannah Lomax 22:47
And the other piece, I think, is having a manager that really does care about you, and managers might show that in their own way. I mean, one example, we had a heat wave here in the U.K. So it was very warm. One of the teams that I'm, that I'm working with, their manager said, "Right, guys, it's really, really hot; I'm gonna go and buy everyone an ice cream." And instead of just going out and buying, you know, a random box of ice lollies, they said, "Please, can everyone write down the exact ice lolly that they want," and a manager went round and bought them all, right. And it's almost that piece around, I care about you, because you're not a number, you're a person, and you're different than everybody else. And then when they brought back all the ice creams, they all looked different, right? But that's the point. And I can bet you now that if that manager needed something, their team would have his back.
The Importance of Individualized Recognition
Jim Collison 23:31
I love that. We say oftentimes in the area of recognition, that if you, if you want recognition, you've got to give it first, right. You need to be, you need to lead with that. I think in, in some team environments, the managers are afraid to give that recognition because they haven't gotten any back. And vice versa, right, in that -- in the sense that the team needs it, but they also haven't given any recognition to their manager. Every time they hear, every time they talk to their manager, they're just bringing negative things or they're just bringing things that are broken, as opposed to that relationship that works from a from a foundation of recognition. Can you talk, Hannah, can you spend a little bit of time, just as we kind of get close to the end here? And again, if you have a last-minute question, you can throw that in chat. But on teams and with managers and around engagement, how important is this idea of recognition?
Hannah Lomax 24:25
Yeah. It looks different for everybody, right? So what recognition might look like for one person might be a big award, you know, their name in lights, very, very public, and that, that might really speak to how they like to be recognized. For somebody else, it might be something completely different. It might be being pulled to the side and just 5 minutes of, This is specifically what you did really well, you know, kind of laid out. This was exactly the piece about that presentation that was, that was incredible or was world-class or was excellent. So I think managers need to ask how people like to be recognized.
Hannah Lomax 24:59
And then I think, again, you know, it comes back to that role modeling. So it's almost that piece where, you know, he's not talking to her; she's not talking to him. So no one's going to talk first. But if someone just starts it, and they just begin that kind of culture of recognition, it will catch fire, and it will kind of become infectious. And you just create a culture where we really are championing one another, you know, we're kind of cheering each other on and, and the more that that gets positive feedback, the more that people want to do it. So yeah, I think it's kind of finding out how people like to be recognized and then role modeling it and just making that part of the culture.
Jim Collison 25:35
Yeah, that was one of the very first -- Gallup taught me -- the very first questions to ask when I took over a new team or when I was working with a team is, How do you prefer to be recognized? And my method, what I'm good at, is verbal, up-front, in front of people, generous. Not everybody likes it that way. And so it's, even though that's my best way of giving it, it's not always received the best way. So I too, by the way, used to buy ice cream for the teams. That works every time.
Hannah Lomax 26:03
There you go.
Jim Collison 26:05
That's a great way. Hannah, in the minute, Hannah, in the minute or so that we have left, any final encouraging words you'd have for individuals? And let's kind of wrap it up.
Hannah Lomax 26:13
Yeah, I mean, everybody needs a coach. Coaches need coaching. That's something that we talk about within the community, you know, who's coaching you? But I think it's finding the right person. And it's, it's kind of creating that ongoing development journey for yourself and somebody that can hold you to account. So yeah, go get a coach if you don't already have one.
Jim Collison 26:33
Hannah, I've been waiting a long time to do an interview with you like this. Thank you for saying, "Yes" to being a part of it. Thanks for coming out today. And some great encouraging words, with those folks on LinkedIn. If you're joining us on LinkedIn, thanks for joining us live. If you have any questions, you can always send us an email: email@example.com. You don't have to be a coach to use that email address. Just send us your questions, if you're interested, if you want to, if you want more information from Hannah. Maybe you're, maybe you're an EMEA and you want to, you've got some questions for Hannah: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll send it along, that email along to her. Then one more reminder on the way out: If you haven't subscribed to The CliftonStrengths Podcast yet, what is taking so long to get there? Get out there, search "CliftonStrengths" on any podcast app that you have. Find that; we'll eventually post that here. You might even be listening to it there. And so thanks for subscribing. Thanks for coming out today. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.
Jim Collison 27:28
Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of The CliftonStrengths Podcast. Make sure you like and subscribe wherever you listen, so you never miss an episode. And if you're really enjoying this podcast, please leave a review. This helps us promote strengths globally.
Hannah Lomax's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Positivity, Futuristic, Learner, Responsibility and Focus.
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