HVAC technicians are people too.
Yeah, I know that the opening line above is similar to the cutieism that often appears on bumper stickers about dogs or cats, or whatever it is that the driver of that particular vehicle is expressing their devotion to and love for, but I thought it was appropriate; simply because it’s true. And what’s also true is that service managers sometimes forget this basic fact when it comes to supervising technicians. For some reason, it’s easy for people in management positions to think that a person with technical skills…especially a technician who pretty much functions independently as we do in the world of HVACR service…doesn’t require the same amount of coaching as others do in other professions.
I’ve said before that part of our job as a service manager is to, well, manage things. Things like schedules, supplies, paperwork flow, etc…but when it comes to managing people, it’s not just management. It’s teaching, leading, and uiltimately, coaching. And part of coaching is asking the right questions. Learning to do this takes a lot of time, effort, study, and learning from your mistakes, but it’s worth it.
Here’s a situation where a coaching question can be part of leading and teaching:
You’re about to send a technician out on something that he or she may not be totally familiar with, and you know you need to help them not only build their self-confidence, but also give them an opportunity to motivate themselves. So, you ask if they’re sure about what they need to do, and you get one of those stock answers like, “Well, I’m not sure”, or “I don’t know.”
And here’s your coaching opportunity. Instead of just giving them a verbal pat on the back by telling them you know they’ll be able to figure things out, and that if they need help, they can also check in with you (trust me, if you tell them that, your phone will ring even if they don’t really need to talk to you, but just need to confirm what they already know before they go ahead), ask…
“If you did know, what do you think the answer would be?”
And there you have it; the difference between managing and coaching. It’s giving them an opportunity to think, which is what any person needs to be able to do in order to grow and develop their skills as a professional. Like I said, technicians are people too.
When you ask this question, be prepared to be very patient in what will seem to be a suddenly painful situation in which you’ve made a grave mistake. The seemingly endless silence will be deafening, but, wait…wait…wait, take a deep breath if you have to, and then wait some more. You could cock you head to one side, blink a few times and show your best friendly smile (remember, a genuine smile is one that reaches your eyes) if you have to, but wait. Nine times out of ten you’ll get either a thoughtful response that absoultely nails it, or honest and intelligent questions that will eventually help you lead them to the place you want them to be.
There are many other good coaching questions we can ask that begin with….
Who do you need to be in order to…..?
What do you think is the best way to….?
How do you think we should handle…..?
Or, my favorite: What if….?
Learn from yesterday…Live for today…Look forward to tomorrow