Seek first to understand…
Here’s an exercise you can do at an officer’s meeting to help your supervisors improve their coaching skills. Give them the following scenario:
“You have a subordinate who is misbehaving. In one sentence, write how you would handle it.”
Then have each of the officers report out on what they would do. As each tells how they would handle it, keep score by putting a hash mark beside one of the following three categories (though don’t share the categories with them until all the answers have been given).
All of the responses will fall into one of the three categories above and if your session is like most I facilitate in my leadership develop programs, you’ll see that most of the responses fall into the first category.
If that happens, you will have a teachable moment. The best officers/supervisors are those who seek first to understand, then to be understood (from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
All too often an officer wants to jump right into the solution to the problem… telling… informing… instructing… and advising… usually with a healthy dose of threatened disciplinary action for non-compliance to the officer’s demands. Talk about the set-up for a bad coaching session.
The best officers seek to understand why the behavior is happening and then try to work with the subordinate to develop an action plan to improve the performance to meet the acceptable standards of the organization. That, my friends, is the set-up for success!
Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness & Decision Making