Coaching is one of the most important leadership tools for driving employee engagement and performance. Ultimately, a leader's effectiveness is dependent upon the ability to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Strategy, no matter how brilliant, cannot be achieved without proper execution by committed and engaged followers. Organizational growth is made possible by the contributions of employees, who willingly commit their talents, creativity and energy to achieve desired results.
What is coaching?
Coaching is facilitating people in their own commitment and enthusiasm to accomplish their objectives in support of organizational goals. It may happen as an in-the-moment event or at a scheduled meeting. While leaders sometimes need to deliver expectations, directions and feedback, coaching is different. It focuses on helping people work through issues and challenges to arrive at their own decisions and plans. Common coaching issues include helping people identify and focus on strengths, enhancing interpersonal interactions, compromising self-awareness, decision- making, performance challenges, career pathing, and dealing with difficult people.
Good coaches need to be good listeners to demonstrate genuine curiosity in what is being said. They resist the urge to jump in and "solve" the other person's problems or quickly share "here's what I would do." To be a good listener, the other person needs to be the center of attention. Some tips for doing that are:
Building trust and confidence through encouragement
One of your primary goals as a coach is to have the other person believe that they are being heard and feel that they are important. Nothing makes someone feel more important than being told that you, the team, and the organization value them. People will open themselves to you when they trust you and feel that you are sincerely interested in helping them. Trust is especially important because people are reluctant to show what might be interpreted as weakness. Keep in mind the following:
Coaching versus telling
Most leaders have been successful because they are very action-oriented and good problem solvers. As junior managers they typically managed others by frequently telling them what to do. This directive behavior is appropriate when the leader's knowledge of information or organization directives is critical to a task. While leaders may at times use the directive or telling approach they used as managers, nondirective coaching becomes a more valuable skill and tool in leading others.
Here are some examples of telling versus coaching:
|Telling (Directive)||Coaching (Nondirective)|
|I noticed you did this.||What did you find most or least effective?|
|You are doing X and it’s getting in your way.||How might you be getting in your own way? What can you do about it?|
|You don’t do X.||What are you avoiding? Why?|
|It would be better to do X.||What’s the most effective thing you can do to make this work even better?|
|Try doing X and Y.||What are you willing to be held accountable for doing?|
Using questions to facilitate coaching
When coaching, you want the other person to speak the majority of the time, as they should be doing most of the work. Avoid asking leading questions. Allow pauses and resist jumping in when someone pauses to think. Here is a nice sequence of questions to guide the coaching conversation:
Responding to the person you are coaching
During the coaching conversation there are times when you will need to do more than ask questions. At times you might have information or insights that are really important to understanding the issue or to help the person arrive at a plan of action. Other times you might find that providing feedback is appropriate and helpful. That feedback might be real time around what your are observing as you coach, or it may be introducing observations from your work with the person that are relevant to this interaction. Remember to do this respectfully–even if you choose to challenge the person to help them move to a higher level of performance. Remember the following:
It is good to end the coaching session in an organized manner. Important components of closure include summarizing key issues, reviewing plans of action with identified measures of success, and agreeing on when you will meet again to review outcomes and learning. Suggested steps are:
Values-based leaders effectively engage, motivate and develop their followers, enabling transformational, sustainable change that leads to effective execution, performance excellence, and outstanding results. One of the greatest motivational and learning tools available to leaders is coaching. Leaders can coach to empower and enhance employee engagement and performance. It is also a valuable skill for developing future leaders.