Introducing coaching skills into your organisation

The press are full of the importance of “well being initiatives” at the moment and there is quite a range. Mindfulness, gym memberships, bring your pet to work day, work life balance policies, you name it there is always something wacky and different you can try to keep the office happy. But we know, and have known for a long time, that employees leave managers rather than organisations. All the well being initiatives in the world don’t make up for an inept manager. Plus research makes it clear that both employees and job candidates value learning and career development above most other aspects of a job. So, why not focus on helping your managers to develop their coaching skills? Great! But what is coaching? Is it the same as giving effective feedback or delegating well?

 Not quite!

Brian Emerson and Anne Loerhr say effective coaching goes on all the time without us realising it. They define coaching as:

“Helping another person reach higher levels of effectiveness by creating a dialogue that leads to awareness and action.”

In the classic coaching book, Coaching for Performance, the late John Whitmore described numerous benefits of coaching, for the team and the individual. These include:

  • Improved performance and productivity
  • Better use of people, skills, and resources
  • Faster and more effective emergency response
  • Greater flexibility and adaptability to change
  • More motivated staff
  • Culture change

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Joseph R. Weintraub comments that there are “managers who coach and managers who don’t. Leaders in the latter category are not necessarily bad managers, but they are neglecting an effective tool to develop talent.”

Often there is simply no awareness or formal requirement that managers should coach employees. Monique Valcour comments that:

“Many managers don’t see coaching as an important part of their role. Managers think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. So if line managers aren’t supportive and actively involved, employee growth is stunted. So is engagement and retention.”

In her article in the Harvard Business Review, Valcour is quite clear that it is perfectly possible to teach even “old-school, results-focused line managers” to coach their employees.

So what are you waiting for? These are Monique Valcour’s tips on how to get started:

1. Find someone who is a good coach in your organization and ask her or him to tell you about it. What do they do? Ask why they coach. Listen and learn.

2. Listen deeply. Before you start coaching, bear in mind that you need to develop a culture of trust and a solid relationship with the people you will be coaching. All the techniques in the world won’t make a difference if those you are trying to coach don’t feel connected to you in some way. The relationship you develop is more important than the all of the best coaching methods that are available.

3. Ask, don’t tell. Learn some of the basic principles of managerial coaching that will help you develop your own expertise as a coach. For example, open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers.”

4. It’s about them, not about you. The mindset should be focused on the people you are coaching. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage them to think about how to move on.

5. Focus on moving forward positively. Valcour points out that the more you follow through on supporting your employees’ developmental plans, the more productive your coaching becomes, the greater your employees’ trust in you and the more engaged you all become. It’s a virtuous cycle.

So what will coaching do for you? Monique Valcour says: “It will build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.”

Margaret Martin support organisations in building coaching skills and developing their staff. Contact us for more details.

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