Dave Lovemartin

Don't just coach — manage

How to help others depending on where they are

last tended: 22.02.2024

At a busy design agency, Jordan, Alex’s line manager, noticed them struggling with projects.

Wanting to help, Jordan wanted to trust Alex to take responsibility for their work, offering coaching and advice at every turn. However, despite Jordan‘s best intentions, Alex seemed to flounder.

The agency’s director, Jamie, advised Jordan that sometimes clear direction is needed.

Taking Jamie’s advice, Jordan provided Alex with specific steps, improving their work and confidence. To Jordan’s surprise, Alex’s performance improved significantly, and they seemed more confident in their work.

Reflecting on the experience, Jordan realized that while coaching is valuable, it’s essential to recognize when someone needs more structured direction.

From then on, Jordan adopted a balanced approach, blending coaching with clear guidance, ensuring everyone had the support they needed to succeed in the design agency.

This isn’t a true story but one I’ve encountered many times. There are many approaches you can take to helping a junior at work:

To decide what form your help should take, factor:

When a junior starts a job, they are likely to have high levels of motivation but not much knowledge of how to do the job. In this situation, use direction so the individual can start to understand what is expected.

Later, as the junior realises how much they don’t know, they may experience lower levels of motivation. Talking through problems helps the junior build confidence and understanding but you can still decide on the course of action.

As the junior’s competency and confidence rises they will still benefit from those conversations and can start to make the decisions.

Once the junior’s confidence is high, then they can be delegated to and, depending on the complexity of the task, trusted to do the work independently.

Warning signs that a different style may be needed

Here are some signs that there is something wrong and a junior may benefit from a different approach to leadership.

Feedback from colleagues can also provide valuable insight into their peer’s performance.

Encouraging open communication and regularly checking in with team members allows you to identify challenges early on and provide appropriate support or adjust your leadership style as needed.

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