Mentorship 5. Be a Coach

Picture this. You are mentoring a new professional. They come in and report an injury. You pick up a chair, walk out to the shop floor, and sling it. Old school Bobby Knight coaching technique 🙂

When it comes to coaching as a mentor, it is more about the essence and spirit of coaching than the literal sense of the word. I was able to be a site material expert on coaching for my location. I loved it. It fits in great with my industrial and organizational psychology studies as I was still at that time working toward my Ph.D. I felt that my site was willing and ready to embrace this way of engaging even though the greater organization in my opinion was not the embodiment of what I was to be teaching. That, though, is a whole different story.

The first thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a perfect coach. It all starts with the desire to find the best way to motivate and empower your team. These skills are not natural. Some people do have more of an inclination to the process but are still something that has to be consciously thought about a practiced. I struggle with being a better safety coach every day. Being a coach and mentor is equal parts giving someone the knowledge to learn and helping someone learn how to gain knowledge.

The best place to start is to define what a coach is.

The philosophy of becoming a coach is great, but where do we start to make a difference in our team’s daily process. It begins with one of the earlier principles of “making time.” It takes time to coach, and it originates from choosing to make an interaction a coaching experience. A team member comes to your office looking for information. The two of you have had conversations about growth, learning, and development previously. Instead of just handing the answer over maybe it is time to help them find their answer.

Let me pause for a moment. Coaching should not be a waste of time. It should be a deliberate exercise to help develop someone’s ability to think and navigate the opportunities of your organization. For example, I have placed an order for extra equipment. My employee comes to ask if the new equipment has arrived. I then ask, “Where should be looking to see if the equipment came in.” That is a waste and does not help anyone involved. That interaction could be valuable if someone was wanting to learn the purchasing and receiving system as part of overall growth. It is about context.

Back to the scenario. Your team member had a new idea they want to implement. Instead of giving them your list of steps, you begin to help them formulate their plan. Use an organizational chart and ask the team member to describe who needs to be directly involved, who needs to know, and who has to approve this new process.

Published by Dr. Mark A. French

Husband, Father, Safety Professional, I/O Psychologist, Golfer, and Geek. BS from Murray State University (Chemistry and Occupational Safety). MBA from Bethel University. PhD in I/O Psychology from Capella University.

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