Managers, learn to develop your team more effectively by joining a Coaching Circle today

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rep circles 550pxCoaching Circles are small groups of employees (manager level and above) from across campus and the medical center who meet to practice the skills necessary to develop their teams. Circles are meeting virtually during the pandemic, which makes it even easier to fit sessions into their busy workdays, participants say.Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once defined a coach as "someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you always knew you could be."

Whatever role your team plays in the UAB enterprise, one of your primary responsibilities as a manager is to develop each member of that team. But, as Landry's quote suggests, coaching often involves delivering feedback and advice that may not always be well received at first. And just as in football, consistent practice is the key to success.

For several years, Learning and Development organized customized Coaching Circles for individual schools and units to give managers an opportunity to practice the skills necessary to effectively develop their teams within small groups of peers. In fall 2019, Learning and Development opened the program campuswide. New groups of Coaching Circles, with virtual meeting times, are launching in October. Register online here.

“I sometimes struggle with having difficult conversations, and I thought this program would help me become more confident in navigating conversations,” said Jessica Brown, assistant director of Student Activities in the Division of Student Affairs, who participated in a spring Coaching Circle. “I would definitely recommend this program to other managers. It was very helpful for me, and I think it would be beneficial for other supervisors.”

New groups of Coaching Circles are launching soon for fall 2020. Register online here.

“I really enjoyed the interaction between fellow employees that were in the same position as I am,” said Jennifer King, pharmacy director in the UAB Health System. “The other members of the circles were not even remotely from my area of campus; there was a great diversity in the group that I was assigned to. It was refreshing to learn from others outside of my realm of work and take a break from the everyday tasks that can bog you down.”  

Coaching Circles are small groups (generally eight to 10 people), open to employees at manager level and above. "We want the participants to gain coaching skills in three areas: listening, asking powerful questions and giving and receiving feedback," said Organizational Development Specialist William Edwards. "We go over what those coaching skills are, given participants models to emulate and then give them opportunities to practice those skills."

Jessica Brown

"Learning to ask powerful questions to help find a solution rather than just providing the solution was interesting and a bit challenging. I appreciated the time to use real scenarios to practice not only answering the questions but also asking them and receiving feedback about my interactions. The sessions were small and included the same group members each time so we could discuss our experiences and follow up on our progress."

— Jessica Brown, assistant director of Student Activities, Division of Student Affairs

Skill practice occurs in two ways — on the job and with peers — Edwards said. "They practice the skills they have learned in their workplaces and then we come back together and one individual member is 'spotlighted' each session," he said. "They will talk about a goal they have or a challenge they are facing and they get peer coaching from the other participants." The member in the spotlight gets to practice listening while they are being coached "and their peers are practicing asking powerful questions and giving and receiving feedback," Edwards said.

In spring the Coaching Circles were offered virtually in response to COVID-19 and "they went really well, so we are continuing to offer them in the virtual format this fall," Edwards said. Brown agreed that the Zoom meetings were a success. “The group was very small, so we still were able to build rapport and had equal time to mentor one another in the virtual setting,” she said. King added that the remote meetings made them easier to fit into busy schedules. “Sometimes it was in fact easier [than meeting in person] because I did not have to leave and come back to my office,” she said. “I saved time by being able to attend right where I am.”

“I saw the Coaching Circles as an opportunity to connect with a group of people from around campus to help practice and improve my coaching skills,” said Kendra Thompson, a personnel generalist II in IT, who took part in the spring. She appreciated the opportunity to connect with others across campus “who were managers and leaders of different levels or different departments,” she said. “Being able to discuss real situations or problems and be coached by others who understand your plight and issues and that can give you an outside perspective was what I found most beneficial.”

Register now to join a Coaching Circle this fall.

Share the values

Coaching Circles are an ideal way to implement accountability, one of UAB's seven Shared Values. Do you know someone who has consistently demonstrated one or more of the Shared Values in the course of their work during the extraordinary times presented by the COVID-19 pandemic? Nominate them for the new President's Award for Excellence in Shared Values, which will be presented in January 2021 to a combined 20 faculty and staff.