David Daly, CVP—a senior account executive at EventBooking—was featured as a guest author for Facility Manager magazine, published by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM)! The original article in the Facility Manager magazine can be found here.
There is compelling evidence that employee engagement is the key to unlocking high productivity for a business, but I would argue that high productivity isn’t the best part of working with people that feel highly valued, invested, and engaged in their everyday work. In the workplace—and venues are no different—the dynamic of a team can outweigh the actual tasks of our day-to-day job, for better or for worse.
But how can leaders, managers, or stakeholders influence that dynamic for the better? It can seem like a subjective goal to some, but how can authentic engagement among staff actually be fostered?
One of the keys to employee engagement is encouraging a sense of ownership. Author Dana Brownlee reported on workplace trends in a recent article in Forbes Magazine that, “As the trend shifts away from long chains of command or hierarchy, more inclusive decision-making requires major shifts in organizational culture.” The traditional “directive” approach in management leaves little room for ambiguity, but it also leaves little room for discussion and one’s interpretation of the best way forward. This directive approach exhausts managers by requiring them to make all decisions related to their employees’ actions, and frustrates employees as they feel they are being micro-managed.
Directing vs. Coaching
Adding coaching principles to your team’s management process can help foster an inclusive decision-making process. Doing so requires an intentional approach and a shared set of expectations for all involved. A directive relationship between manager and employee is necessary in the early stages, especially for early-career employees who have less experience. However, transitioning to a coaching-based approach at the appropriate time can place the power in an employee’s hands to make their own good decisions. By using coaching to encourage employees to develop their own problem-solving skills, employees gain a deeper awareness of self, their surroundings, and begin assuming more personal responsibility as their confidence grows.
Coaching is an inquisitive process where the coach asks questions to help the coachee identify their path to achievement. This paradigm is common in “executive coaching,” where it is often used for career development and performance management for senior executives and high-potential employees. However, coaching isn’t limited to those functions, nor is it solely reserved for the C-suite. When properly used, coaching can be an effective tool across all levels of an organization. It can be deployed in real-time to get employees actively engaged in decision making when they encounter problems.
This can be uncertain territory for those unfamiliar with the process—managers who are routinely sought out for decisions, and for employees who are not accustomed to being directly involved in the decision-making process. Coaching provides a way to level the playing field, putting employees in the driver’s seat while allowing managers to provide guidance and support.
Coaching using the GROW Model
One of the most accessible ways for managers to provide coaching feedback is through the GROW model. The creation of the GROW model is largely credited to John Whitmore, a pioneer of professional coaching whose contributions to the field are numerous. It has become one of the most successful frameworks employed in modern professional coaching. While there are different variations of the GROW principles, the commonly accepted steps in the process are as follows:
G: Goal – define the desired outcome
R: Reality – assess the circumstances of the current scenario
O: Options – develop ideas for how to accomplish the goal
W: Way Forward – select the best option and create an action plan
When using the GROW model, state the goal as clearly and concisely as possible. Without clarity, it will be difficult to craft a specific action plan. Explore the reality of trying to achieve that goal—what challenges, external factors, or related issues might exist? When considering options, explore as many ideas as possible; identifying all available courses of action. This provides a comprehensive view of the possibilities. Once multiple options have been identified, determine the way forward by selecting the most feasible option and building an action plan around it.
While GROW can be used in a conversation about improving job performance or choosing to pursue a specific career opportunity, this framework can be employed on a much more granular level in the course of a regular business interaction. Consider a situation where an employee approaches their manager with a problem. The manager is likely focused on an entirely different subject—strategizing for an upcoming meeting, battling their ever-growing inbox, or managing a dispute with a client. The manager’s first instinct may be to assess the problem quickly and to use their experience to fire off a suggested course of action for the employee. The employee departs to enact those instructions, without gaining the benefit of growth that comes from analyzing and solving problems. The manager returns to the task at hand, content to have quickly slain another dragon without further disruption.
Alternatively, when approached by the same employee with the same problem, the manager might instead start a coaching dialogue with the employee, asking questions like:
“What do you think would be the best outcome in this situation?”
“What are the factors that you think we should be aware of here?”
“What are some of our options for resolving this?”
“Based on those options, what do you recommend that we do?”
The manager, being ultimately accountable for the outcome, must validate each step of the discussion along the way. However, by following this framework, the manager can allow the employee to take more ownership of the process.
The simplicity of the GROW model is part of its appeal: by using a simple mnemonic device and guiding an individual through a set of questions, a manager can easily help an employee create solutions around a particular problem without providing directive guidance. The outcome includes more levels of trust, a greater sense of ownership, and a deeper level of engagement. Those factors contribute significantly to fostering a motivated, engaged team—one that will be happier, more productive, and dedicated to providing exceptional service to your customers.
David Daly, CVP, is senior account executive with EventBooking—a venue management software company that serves performing arts centers, convention centers, arenas, and more. Previously a Director of Programming within the performing arts sphere, David’s professional experience encompasses programming, booking, operations, marketing, ticketing, event management, and more. He is an active member of IAVM and serves as a mentor to others in the industry.