Posted by Mike Kaaks

28 March 2013

I had a great moment in a coaching session this morning when R, the lady with whom I was working, described her choices about what to do as being between getting a task done herself, or faffing around. Using that word really lit up our conversation. It also highlighted how a lot of us see the being tasks when compared to the doing; a key theme of mine as many of you will know. I'm sure you have your moments when the outcomes of just doing it yourself seem to dramatically outweigh those of sitting down and chatting with a colleague about how they might contribute to the task, or how they might take responsibility for all of it with a little bit of tuition or guidance as required. But those conversations take too long. Who has time to faff around?

You have to make time for this. I accept that it is a J curve issue. You often have to invest time before seeing a return in terms of completed work, or better, the development of your colleague. But once the curve has lifted up past break-even, the returns are large and they come fast and frequently.

What constitutes faffing around? Responding to a request for information or approval that you know is in the mind of the colleague with a simple question rather than an answer. "what do you think we should do?" It's also spending some time ensuring that your colleagues know what your movements are in the coming week, and what are the priorities for the team, and why they are the priorities. Responding to requests for discussion about personal development. Ensuring that your weekly one-on-ones are held on time, and that you are really present in that conversation. Listening skills honed and applied at their absolute best.

I made a typo as I was putting this together, putting a g in place of the f at the beginning of faffing. It's been a helpful slip because it is such a small change to the word and yet a huge change in behaviour. It's a Gaff to be doing it yourself for expedience rather than coaching your colleague toward their own solution, their own production, their own achievement. This kind of slip reminds me of a definition I was given for a Freudian slip - when you say one thing and mean your mother. It's interesting though the way that coaching conversations often turn on a slip of a remark. If R hadn't used the word faffing our conversation would have been far less fruitful, and she would not have seen her choices so clearly. More faffing say I.