Inspiring leaders coach good team members to become better people. They help them build better lives for themselves and others. They build their team from the inside out … inspiring excellence at work and in life. In the crunch of daily demands, we sometimes forget a fundamental law of leadership: If our teams are successful, we are successful. Inspiring leaders are crystal clear on this law and focus on nurturing success and inspiring future leaders.

The coaching challenge in today’s mega-busy workplace is that people only remember 20 percent of what they hear. And if those people are teenagers, you can divide that number in half!

Why is this percentage so low? Let’s say I am hurried and swing by a team member’s cube and say, “Ryan, please make sure you use the new format on the month-end sales report … thanks.” Even if Ryan is a pretty sharp guy, what do you think the chances are he will hear my request accurately, remember it, recall it accurately when it’s relevant, interpret my instructions as I intended, then perform the task satisfactorily?

When we look at it this way, 20 percent sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

If we are coaching a team member on the same thing repeatedly, before we get frustrated with them, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I inspiring better performance or am I just checking this off my list?” “Is there a way I can change my coaching approach to get better results?”

As the retention scale below illustrates, inspiring extraordinary results requires just a little extra time and effort. We generally remember:

  • 90% of what we both say and do (simulating the real thing, doing the real thing)
  • 70% of what we say (participating in a discussion, giving a talk)
  • 50% of what we hear and see (watching a movie, looking at an exhibit, watching a demonstration)
  • 30% of what we see (looking at pictures)
  • 20% of what we hear (instructions)
  • 10% of what we read (memos, books)

It only takes a few minutes extra to move up this scale to improve coaching effectiveness and prevent re-coaching. For example, instead of giving a team member a new policy or process to read (10 percent retention), you can ask him/her to read it then get back to you later today to explain their interpretation of it and what changes they need to make as a result. Now we are at 70 percent retention (of what we say). That’s a good return for your invested time.

Coaching is a pay-me-now or pay-me-later leadership proposition. Take a shortcut and you will be saying the same thing to the same team member next week – no fun for either of you. Do it correctly, and you inspire higher performance and competence … and competence builds confidence. Team confidence is a vital asset for any leader who wants to elevate performance.

Inspiring leaders prevent re-coaching by investing the time to coach right the first time.

Action Questions:

1. Where on the retention scale do most of my coaching interactions fall?

2. How can I approach my next coaching opportunity to maximize retention and minimize re-coaching?

For 30 more daily insights to inspire extraordinary results, check out Leadership Matters.