By Anthony T. Eaton
Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.
Many leaders struggle with coaching and development not because they don’t want to do it, but because they don’t understand it and don’t know how to do it right. The purpose of coaching and development is to increase performance not only when an employee may be doing something incorrectly or needs to learn something new, but also when they are already performing the job well and needs development and encouragement for career growth.
Coaching occurs during the course of everyday workplace encounters and conversations. It guides employees by providing direction and may address performance opportunities.
Coaching can be initiated by the leader or the employee who is seeking guidance, It can be structured involving formally scheduled meetings and a development plan, or “on the fly” when there is an immediate opportunity to provide guidance, information or a better way of doing something. Coaching is not advice, counseling or corrective action.
Coaching and development is a way to help people become better versions of themselves but it is important to understand that a Development Plan is not the same as a Performance Improvement Plan. Coaching and development is an interactive process with the employee. To be successful some things should be considered including the objective: what do you want the result to be.
When coaching and developing employees you need to be clear in what you want to accomplish. Focus on what the end result should look like first and how to get there second. This is true even if coaching is an immediate opportunity to show an employee how to do something better or give them constructive feedback. Knowing the result you want will help guide you on how to get it.
Consider what motivates your employees. To have successful coaching relationships with your employees, get to know them on a personal level. It’s okay to ask them flat-out, in a one-on-one meeting, which makes them feel motivated. Employees are more likely to be receptive and put in extra effort when they feel involved.
Consider the benefits, how will this coaching and development benefit the employee and the company? Coaching and development should benefit both the employee and the company; it is not an either-or option. For the individual it increases their skills, value to the organization and marketability. For the company, the employee may be utilized in more areas requiring fewer resources
Formal coaching and development usually takes the form of scheduled meetings. This sends a powerful signal to the employee that their development and success is important, and that the manager is there to provide support. Formal coaching and development includes documented elements including deliverables and timelines.
Informal coaching and development does not take place with scheduled meetings but in everyday workplace encounters and conversations. These may be any length, one-to-one or with a group, task or people-focused. This typically involves guidance related to immediate learning or instruction.
It is not what you say, it is how you say it.
When it comes to coaching and development the way you speak is as important as the words you use. Coaching and development conversations are crucial conversations. The stakes are high, opinions can vary, emotions run strong, and the repercussions can be far-reaching. As stated earlier, knowing what you want to achieve is essential. Once you have that, you need to consider how you will communicate that to the individual in a way that maintains their dignity and respect and does not damage your relationship with them.
Body language is a type of nonverbal communication in which physical behavior, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information.
Tone makes all the difference in communication and can change the impact of the delivery from one that is positive and supportive to negative and demeaning. Tone is the reflection of your attitude towards the person you are communicating with and exhibits emotions such as anger, disgust, kindness, and support among others. Body language is a type of nonverbal communication in which physical behavior, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information. These include facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of physical space. When body language is in conflict with tone and inflection it will convey insincerity and you will come across as disingenuous. Understanding the body language of those you are coaching and developing is just as important as your own.
When coaching there are several strategies that can be used and the situation will determine which of the strategies is most appropriate. A few of the most common are:
- Instructing or retraining occurs when employees have new responsibilities or are learning a new skill.
- Directing or guiding is used when employees have the necessary skills but need to know how to apply them.
- Prompting is appropriate when employees know what to do and how to do it, but they need support to accomplish the task.
- This is an ideal time to build their confidence and encourage them as they go.
No matter how successful a coaching session feels while it’s underway if it doesn’t lead to change after it’s over, it hasn’t been effective. It is important to follow-up on the employee’s progress. Whether it is a formal follow-up to meet face-to-face with documentation, or an informal method of asking for quick updates and providing feedback directly. You should make sure that the follow-up is counted and efforts are not taken for granted. Watch for change and accomplishment regardless of whether it is formal or informal.
Coaching and development should be ongoing, it is never a once and done because there is always an opportunity for growth and improvement. Lastly, don’t overcomplicate it.