Monday, April 6, 2015

Coaching Is Critical to Develop a Lean Thinking Mentality


Coaching is a difficult skill for many leaders to acquire. It’s vague and slow. Leaders tend to want to move quickly toward defined goals, reach those goals, and immediately move on to the next set of goals. Coaching is frustratingly elusive to understand and seemingly convoluted in the doing; it is much easier to direct than to guide.

However, being able to coach is a critical skill in helping employees develop a Lean Thinking mentality. Being taught what waste is, is one thing, discovering how to see it is an enriching experience and more likely to stick.

Coaching is the process of preparing your employees to succeed. It is an ongoing, two-way process that involves using constructive, consistent feedback to reinforce positive behavior, resulting in improved performance.

You develop leader/coaches the same way you coach; by helping them discover what coaching is. Leaders need a collaborative and engaging style management. This approach focuses on developing employees in order to achieve business results rather than managing their every move. The mindset of the coach is to create an environment that fosters learning, independent thinking and opportunities to contribute.

Important coaching behaviors to emphasize are many: being open and honest, taking risks, empathy, reflecting, linking coaching and performance, asking open-ended questions, providing emotional support and supporting self-discovery. Coaches are a role model for others. They are excellent listeners and communicators, providing perspective and encouragement while also setting high standards and expectations.

Becoming a good coach is not being taught how to do it, but experiencing how to do it.  The coach doesn't want to be seen as a solution provider. Rather, they want to be seen as a facilitator, paving the way for the employee to achieve their results.

The best way to empower employees is not to manage them. Coach them to success. This is a process of developing their skills and providing them specific feedback to meet high standards. Employees want to be on the same team with their bosses.


Coaching is one of the premier skills of a good Lean leader, but one that is often overlooked. A leader whose goal is to help employees fulfill potential must be an exemplary coach.

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3 comments:

  1. Enjoyed the post, Tim. I'm curious about your thoughts on measuring development. Such questions came up at a recent conference - "how do I measure development?" Maybe the assessment just has to be gauged by work results, progress in pdca thinking, and with one-on-one interaction.

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  2. Hi Tim

    Coaching which is actually growing and developing your people while managing them to obtain the greatest performance is what business leadership is all about, unfortunately to many people think that all you have to do is set goals, and get rid of those who fail to accomplish their assigned part of the goal. Coaches always have a goal in mind, which is succeeding. What many forget is that getting to the goal takes developing your people, and managing them in a way that allows them to perform their individual and team roles.

    The only athlete, coaches stop trying to develop is the one about to be cut from the team.

    As to answer Chet question. I have never heard of or witnessed any real tool to measure peoples development. But as a general rule if you don't see them growing and doing new things, and at the same time doing those things they did before better, than either they aren't growing, or you aren't giving them the chance to grow. Getting growth from people also requires that you give them a honest chance to do new things.

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