After the Webinar: Supervisor as Coach. Q&A with Dr. Tamara Lyn

Webinar presenter Dr. Tamara Lyn answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Supervisor as Coach: Lead Your Direct Reports to Their Own Solutions for Performance and Motivation Issues. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: When you say core values, going back to the conversation you were just having, what is it that you specifically mean? 

Tamara Lyn: So, they could be things like community, respect, integrity, justice, fairness, companionship, and charity. Those are examples of core values.


Audience Question: If we became more interested in learning more about learning agility, and the manager as Coach concept, what would be your favorite book that you would recommend to be read? 

Tamara Lyn: I’m so glad you asked. I actually have a few here that I wanted to be sure to share with the audience. If you are thinking about the coaching mindset, with respect to yourself and your own leadership, there’s a lovely book called Change Your Questions, Change Your Life and the author’s name is Marilee Adams. It’s a wonderful examination of how if we were to change what we focus on and change the tape that is running in our head when we are hitting a challenge, it opens up new choices and new possibilities. If you’re thinking of yourself as the supervisor wanting to support your team, a very helpful resource is called The Coaching Habit. The author is Michael Bungay Stanier. There are two podcasts that I would love to recommend. I don’t have any affiliation with any of these authors or podcast hosts, but they are resources that I use all the time. One is called “Great Leadership.” It’s a podcast with Jacob Morgan. And another is called “The Leadership Habit,” and you can find them on any of the available podcast platforms.


Audience Question: How can we learn to be more patient with people who are resisting change? Especially when patience isn’t our strong suit?

Tamara Lyn: That’s a wonderful question. Part of being patient is being able to be authentic as you are inquiring about what someone else is thinking. Being patient is not just about stopping the conversation and letting a certain amount of time elapse before you ask your next question. Being patient is genuinely trying to give people space to think and formulate their ideas before having to answer you. And some people can tell the difference, right? People can tell if you’re going through the motions and are just trying to watch the clock while they try to spit out what they’re trying to tell you, or if you’re genuinely creating space for them to express themselves. So, part of this is working on your own regulation of strong emotion. This may come from being able to breathe deeply, relax your own heart rate, and slow your mind down as you are having these difficult conversations. But it’s also about using language that is not belittling or shaming other people because with such language you’re certainly not showing empathy. When you are not embarrassing people, or making them feel badly about themselves, it’s partly about managing your own strong emotions. You become really thoughtful about the language that you’re using to try to connect with other people. I hope those two tips are helpful.


Audience Question: What are the front-line or mid-level managers’ biggest objections to being expected to be coming more of a coach? And how can executive leaders help overcome those objections, especially when you’ve got an organizational culture that is a little bit more on the militaristic or legalistic side?

Tamara Lyn: I relate, I relate to my own journey in corrections. In the beginning I really resisted the regimentation and the strict hierarchy of the system. And then, honestly, as I became part of that system, I saw the value in it, and I saw why it is that way. So, I relate to that dilemma. It’s really going to be showing results that will win converts to this approach. And this is where a quick wins approach can be very helpful. If you can look for small, but impactful ways to change the way your team is approaching a problem or thinking about solutions, your leaders will notice. And if they don’t notice, you need to tell them. But it’s going to be the results that help earn converts. And you may have to do this a little bit quietly at first and build up those examples before you can persuade others to support this approach.


Audience Question: What are the most important skills that we need to have in order to be a great manager or coach, and do we likely already have some of these skills? 

Tamara Lyn: Oh, goodness, that’s a wonderful question. Yes, you already have them. One of our challenges is that we use different language to refer to some of the same skills, But yes, you have them. Leadership gurus will tell you that one thing is more important than anything else. I think it’s a balanced portfolio that you need to bring to your supervision of others. One piece of that for me has been knowing that I am a work in progress and that I don’t expect to be perfect, that I’m willing to learn from my mistakes. When I make mistakes, I admit them to my team, and to my leadership. I think it demonstrates a certain humility and curiosity when you know that you are a learner as well, and other people will join you in that learning process. I think also understanding that people have worries and concerns that they bring to work, that they just can’t leave at the door. And while you want to have appropriate personal boundaries at work, it’s important to accept and work with the fact that your team is carrying burdens that you may not be aware of, and you want to be sensitive to that and support them, however you can.

And then, I think, another strong aspect of leadership is really being an advocate for your team, and making sure that your team knows that you have their back when times are difficult. I found myself in that situation many times, and sometimes I got credit for it, and other times I didn’t, but I always tried to put the well-being and the reputation of my team first and foremost.


Audience Question:  Is it possible to hire for agile learning? And how would you do that?

Tamara Lyn: So, this is an area of research that is not closed yet, there is still work being done on this. There are some questionnaires on the market that try to tap learning agility and help you distinguish between job applicants based on that. It’s not an exact science yet, there’s still a lot of research to be done. And, frankly, if we only relied on that, we wouldn’t be able to fill the positions that we have, right? It’s a skill that we need to give people time to build, in addition to looking for people who inherently have it. If you are asking questions to get at this ability to apply knowledge and experience to new situations that you might not have planned for, that’s great. But I wouldn’t use it to rule out a candidate, either. I would look for that person’s potential to learn.


Audience Question: How do you coach somebody who, honestly, we really don’t like? 

Tamara Lyn: It gets back to the fifth element of the coaching mindset, that other-centeredness. It’s not about us as the supervisor. It can’t be about our ego, right? I would focus instead on the fact that you, as a supervisor, are accountable for the results of your team. Perhaps you have that  less popular employee. You want to make that person a contributor despite any personality conflicts or unpleasantness that may go on. So, if you prioritize the needs of the team and the results that you need to achieve you’re going to find the will to coach that employee.



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