Coaching in a Nutshell
Coaching is the process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to develop themselves and become more effective.
Coaches equip people to develop themselves. Rarely will a leader or manager have the time to be involved with every aspect of someone’s development. And rarely will you possess all the information, skills, wisdom that someone might need to ensure their development to be an effective coach. Instead, view your role as a catalyst for development.
Coaching is a continuous process, not an occasional conversation—“Let’s sit down and have a coaching session”—or a single event—“It’s time for you to take an advanced leadership class.” You might compare yourself to an orchestra conductor, so that sometimes you work one-on-one with a player, other times you direct them from afar, and on some occasions you cut people loose so they develop in areas completely outside you scope. You guide them to learn and practice regularly; you help channel their passion to learn into the best opportunities, and you harmonize their playing with the other members of the company.
“Education is not filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”
--William Butler Yeats
The 4 Realities That Compel Leaders To Be Better Coaches
Reality #1: Change is inevitable. Even the most successful organizations cannot rest on their laurels. They must continually remake themselves or risk falling from glory. Because today’s excellence is not a guarantee for tomorrow’s success, leaders who bask in complacency are due for rude awakening.
Reality #2: People must learn and adapt quickly. Your people’s skills will become obsolete—in the same way technologies become outdated—if you rely solely on today’s capabilities to lead your company into the future. You cannot just hire talented people, teach them to do their jobs, and leave them alone. To cope with the inevitability of changing work demands, you need a work force that can learn new skills and adapt quickly.
One way or another, most people figure out how to do their jobs. But development by default is too passive to achieve the standards of excellence and versatility that you must meet. Because the world refuses to wait for those who say “slow down while I gain more experience,” organizations are looking for better and faster ways to achieve breakthrough performance with their people. Experience and time alone are slow and inefficient teachers. You need to jump start learning and make sure it runs full speed in the right direction.
Reality #3: Employees want to grow. Lifelong employment in the same job is a career path found only in the history books. Millennials at 33 percent, now represent the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, surpassing the Baby Boomer group, which has declined to 31%. And Millennials are not just pursuing job satisfaction ? they are pursuing development.
Reality #4: People are the real source of competitive advantage. Versatile people—those who learn better and faster than your competition—sustain you edge in the marketplace. Because your people are your most important assets, coaching is your investment vehicle for long-term payback.
Why Managers Don’t Coach
When managers are asked why they don’t coach they usually say one of the following:
“I just don’t have time to do it.” (See the 5% Solution)
“I don’t need to do coaching with my team. After all, I talk to them almost every day.”
Let’s examine these two obstacles to coaching.
When looking at the workload of today’s managers, the “no time” barrier rings true. Coaching does take time, especially for the manager, who must focus on his or her own tasks as well as coach. In the short run, coaching takes more time than not coaching. Although you are busy and have lots of responsibilities, consider this: your coaching helps create motivated, productive team members. In turn, these high-performance employees will lighten your load. The real question to answer is, “Can you afford not to?”
One of the most common remarks made by managers that are introduced to coaching, “Why should I do coach with my team? I talk or see them every day. By the way, I also have an open door policy; so, my employees can come see me any time they need me. This approach is for other managers that don’t communicate with their people on a regular basis—not me.”
Coaching sessions do no replace daily communication—they, in fact, are completely different. During our daily conversations and interactions, how often do we actually stop to discuss the activities of our employees or role-play sales calls? And although most managers have an open door policy, most people do not actually walk up to manager and say, “Hey, Boss. I am sure glad you have an open door policy. Can we spend the next 15 minutes talking about how I can develop?”
The reality is this: every team can benefit from implementing developmental coaching. The process is used by highly successful managers and companies to bring out the best in their employees.
How Coaching Benefits the Entire Organization
The benefits of coaching seem to be very employee-oriented; however, looking at the bigger picture, your organization as a whole gains from having effective coaching sessions. Workplace Psychology, a website which covers areas of the workplace and workers from a scholarly perspective, offers some advantages of integrating coaching in your organization. I have elaborated their top three reasons:
1. Overcome costly and time-consuming performance problems: many companies still rely on their annual performance to evaluate their employees’ performance. By integrating coaching in your organization, you can identify performance problems easier and quicker, and take the appropriate measures to overcome these hurdles such as re-aligning the employees’ objectives, or offering training/mentoring to help your employees succeed.
2. Strengthen employees’ skills: Coaching allows employees to gain valuable skills and knowledge from their coach – whether it is you or a senior employee – which will eventually increase the productivity of your organization. Coaching also provides you with how the employees are performing; by following up with their progress, you may discover that they possess skills that you were not aware of. Therefore coaching helps you identify the competencies of your team and you may then take the initiative to strengthen these skills by encouraging them to take advanced classes or/and attend seminars.
3. Improve retention: when employees are coached, they feel supported and encouraged by their manager and their organization. Coaching is a two-way communication process. You provide feedback to your employees and they are able to use this opportunity to also give feedback. Employees are more likely to stay in your organization if they feel that their voice is being heard by you and senior management. By integrating coaching, you are encouraging your managers and yourself to be more present among your employees. Coaching also allows you to identify employees who fit with your succession planning.
The Secret of the 5% Solution
Many managers when exhorted to coach more and boss less will rightly say, “But my plate is already full. I can’t handle one more obligation. I rarely see my people because I’m so busy and they are scattered all over the place. There’s no way I can do all this.”
You face a dilemma: Simple solutions don’t work for development, yet you don’t have time for complex solutions. So you need a coaching process that attacks the true challenges of getting a variety of people to change and yet is still manageable in light of available time and resources. That process is the 5% solution.
You can be effective and efficient if you focus 5% of your energy and attention on coaching and development. Working smarter—not harder—helps you make the best investment of your time. The secret of efficient coaching is to know your priorities and then to create and seize coaching opportunities that arise in the course of your everyday work. If you are prepared, you can leverage a relatively small investment of your time into a walloping payback.
The Role of Feedback in Coaching
What most managers do when they “coach” is evaluate, not develop their people to help them become more competent and committed. The key to both change and cooperation is feedback.
What is feedback? Feedback is the process of giving information to someone about the impact the person makes through his or her attitudes, actions, and words. If there is lots of honest, open, specific feedback going on in a company, up and down and sideways, that is a clear signal that people are learning, changing and improving.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case, most people dread feedback. They anticipate criticism and they feel they will be under attack. Egos goes up and receptivity goes down. This is because people look at feedback as evaluative, not developmental—probably because that is how they have experienced it.
The main reason feedback is viewed negatively is that the person receiving the feedback believes the feedback is judgmental and that motives of the giver may be negative. People are not accustomed to feedback as a form of ongoing development.
Although many people avoid getting feedback initially, once a person experiences effective feedback aimed at helping him or her get to the next level—developmental feedback—he or she becomes hungry for more.
Developmental coaching is one of the most important things a manager can do to increase the productivity of his people and to help them meet or exceed their goals.
Three Development Groups
1. Set the standard.
The people in this category are not performing at the desired level and need to add new competencies to their repertories. People in this group might be new in their jobs or seasoned employees whose skills are below standard.
2. Set new direction.
People in this group have to unlearn old behaviors and learn new skills. Typically, they are performing well today, but their skills will be obsolete or insufficient as priorities evolve and new challenges become a reality. Changes in work demands, organizational strategies, or competitive forces might precipitate the need for a new direction. Sometimes the emerging demand for change is subtle, because needs are being met and people have been succeeding. But alert leaders recognize that the status quo will quickly fall short in a changing environment.
3. Set free.
In this group, you help people soar toward their full potential. They need to stretch their limits and find fresh applications for their skills so they do not become stale or restless. You might not notice these development needs if people are content within their comfort zone and they are meeting organizational needs. Sometimes you need to stir people up and expose them to new possibilities to get maximum yield from their talents.
All the success,
Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach, Trainer and Organizational Facilitator
Smart Development specializes in helping managers coach employees so they can and will contribute in greater ways to key organizational imperatives.
Call or email us today for more information on how we’ve helped other companies improve the coaching skills of their management team.