"There’s this person on my team and I just don't know how to handle her. Can you help?" a supervisor asks her division manager. Now imagine that division manager were you: What would you tell her? This may not sound like a typical coaching-tools situation at first; its label doesn’t say "long-term people development." Well, it doesn't have to.
A full toolbox
Coaching can do much more than "just" support your big goals. Of course, setting individual development goals with your staff and regularly reviewing their progress are tools that belong in every capable manager’s repertoire. But a fully equipped toolbox will also hold effective approaches for many other, more mundane situations. For instance, when a tangible short-term goal is at stake you can help your people determine a viable approach. You don't present them with an elaborate strategy, mind you – the big hammer stays in the box. Instead, you use questioning techniques. They are a much more appropriate tool in this case.
Bye bye, brain fog
Acute, burning problems are another application case for effective ad-hoc support through coaching: You can use the tools in the box to give your people just the impetus they need to solve a problem that’s been eating up their energy. This is precisely what the character in our case example needs – the one with the difficult person on her team. This supervisor is blocked by her constant struggle with that particular problem. As her manager, you could help her see more clearly by asking targeted questions – such as: What makes this person different from others? Is there anyone she gets along with? What does this other person have to say about her? This way, instead of handing the supervisor a ready-made solution, you help her find her ow way. Your questions help clear the "fog" in her head. (I call it "brain fog.")
Keep your eyes open
You see: Coaching tools help you deal even with sudden difficulties. After all, everyday problems like the one described in our example are highly relevant for the overall situation, the big picture – your staff’s development and their ties to your company. This way, every problem you help your people solve is another step towards the greater goal. So, make sure to keep your eyes open for your people’s everyday worries.