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Using the tools you have

I’ve got a toolbox at home. It’s full of screwdrivers that don’t match and bits and pieces that I can’t remember what they are for. Like most amateurs I tend to reach in and grab anything when I have a job to do. Normally that’s whatever was at the top from the last time or the same old screwdriver with a bent end and chipped edge that seems to get used for getting things out of things or making holes, in fact any job but putting in screws.

Recently I got a bit stuck with a job and asked a neighbor for his advice. He’s a builder by trade so I thought he’d know what to do. He came in and reached into my toolbox, trying not to shown signs of disgust I’m sure, and took out a few tools and proceeded to use all of  them to do the job. My bent screwdriver didn’t even get near it. In the end the job went quicker, was neater and I’m sure will last for longer.

The next day I was in conversation with a client who has been part of one of our Coaching Culture programmes over the last few months. In that programme we work with managers to help them integrate coaching into their leadership style. We have an action learning philosophy that we call EAR (Educate, Action, Review) as we’ve learnt that nobody goes from amateur to expert after a few days training. So the client and I were, in effect, having a Review conversation as the premise is that they go and try the tools after the Educate phase. We were looking at his development targets for the year and what aspects of the tools and philosophies of the programme he needed to work on most to improve his leadership style.

In talking he said he was ‘doing coaching’ and just needed to get better at it. I asked which phase of the coaching model was the least natural for him. This drew a blank, so we explored what he meant by ‘doing coaching’. We worked through a typical coaching conversation and he began to realise that he was only using some of the model. He’d forgotten some key parts of it and when we explored what a few of his reports most needed from him (coaching is contextualised through the needs of the coachee) he saw that the bit he was missing was the bit that two of his staff needed most. We were then able to focus his learning efforts a liitle more specifically and set some targets and measures on his road to expertise.

This is not an unusual circumstance. How many of your staff remember everything they are shown in training? How many go back to their toolbox and look at the elements that were ‘not important when I learned them’ but ‘could be useful now’ (maybe that trainer did know a thing or too after all).

Just as it took my expert neighbour to help me remember what tools I actually had in my toolbox at home before reminding me how to use them, it often takes a bit of prompting from experts for your staff to use the tools that you have given them.

Thats why the E is not enough, without the A and then a little expert help with R.

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