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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 11, 2011 • Issue 11:04:01

Coach your way to a stronger organization

By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resources LLC

Wikipedia defines coaching as "a method of personal development or human resource development ... an excellent way to attain a certain work behavior that will improve leadership, employee accountability, teamwork, sales, communication, goal setting, strategic planning and more."

In his book The Manager as Coach and Mentor, author Eric Parsloe defines coaching as "a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful Coach requires knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place."

Why coaching matters

As a business owner or manager, your responsibility is to make sure your team is performing effectively. And for the team to perform effectively, each team member must contribute and work efficiently. Coaching employees is one of the best strategies an owner or manager can utilize for developing better employee relationships resulting in higher productivity, increased morale, skill development and improved performance.

Managers and business owners coach to build knowledge and skills and provide training that is in addition to any formal or on-the-job training programs offered by the company and can be structured or informal. Coaching can also be part of an ongoing program to develop employees for higher levels of responsibility within the company. Many companies evaluate potential leaders on the criteria of how well they coach and develop other employees and their replacements.

The old adage that you cannot move to the next level on the ladder until you have groomed your successor holds true today. Many managers feel territorial toward their jobs and knowledge and fail to prepare for succession. In this case, the company suffers when they leave and no one is prepared to step in and assume their responsibilities.

What can coaching and developing employees do for the company? It can help to:

  • provide a process for identifying employees' present goals and skills, evaluating future plans and directions for further development, and designing a career path that includes life balance and

  • produce employees who are productive, engaged in their work, who advance quickly, and who remain with the company for longer periods of time.

As we all know, businesses today remain under tremendous pressure to do more with less and to become streamlined, efficient and effective in the face of growing global competition. Business owners and managers must retain committed employees in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

One way to achieve this goal is for owners or managers to transform into coaches rather than remain supervisors or controllers. Like many management skills, coaching employees is a technique and a process that requires an investment of time and energy to achieve success.

Each coaching opportunity is unique and requires an understanding of the individuals involved. No two coaching situations are the same, as no two individuals have the same goals and skills.

Surveys tell us that employees remain with organizations when:

  • they find the work interesting, challenging and satisfying
  • they are well informed about the company's goals and direction
  • they are recognized for good performance
  • they see opportunities for professional development and continued growth

What skills are required

Coaching creates an environment that helps ensure that these factors exist in the workplace while the consequences of failing to provide top-quality coaching are low morale and high turnover.

What skill sets do you need to provide successful coaching? Following is a list to help you assess your abilities.

  • Think of employees as individuals who need to be guided, not controlled: Acknowledge that you must learn to trust your employees to know their jobs and to perform their jobs.

    If you do not trust people to do their jobs, you must recognize that you either have the wrong person for the job, you haven't trained them sufficiently, or you failed to allow them to do their jobs.

  • Learn to listen: Active listening is one of the most critical skills a manager can learn (for more information, see "To listen actively," by Vicki M. Daughdrill, The Green Sheet, Aug. 25, 2008, issue 08:08:02). For the coaching process to work, the coach must be both willing and able to listen carefully, respond appropriately and take necessary actions.

  • Focus on the positive: Every individual has both strengths and weaknesses. By focusing on the strengths, people experience growth and improvement resulting in greater enthusiasm and effectiveness. While it may be necessary to deal with a shortcoming or inadequate performance, the coaching sessions should primarily focus on the positive.

  • Develop strengths instead of managing for results: Several years ago, management styles included management by objective, management by responsibility and management by outcome.

    By focusing on developing the individual, top notch results will follow - assuming you have the proper person in the position. And remember, one size does not fit all. Employees learn by different methods, therefore, the coaching sessions must be customized to fit the needs of each individual employee.

  • Allow employees to resolve problems: Many managers today want to make all of the decisions and solve all of the problems, thinking it is easier and faster. However, to truly develop employees, managers must allow others to make decisions and solve problems. A good way to begin learning this skill is to ask "What do you want to do about this situation?"

  • Create a positive environment: Create an environment where people want to work with you and feel valued and respected. Make it clear to your employees what they are responsible for, but give them the latitude to go about it in their own way. In short, treat them the way you would want to be treated.

  • Coach with compassion: How you deliver your message, either positive or negative, is just as important as what you say. Learn to think before you speak. Ask yourself "How would I feel if I received this message?"

How to do it

Coaching sessions can be long or short, formal or informal, structured or unstructured based on the manager's style and the material to be covered. For the greatest potential outcome, take time to prepare for each session. Here are some steps to help you begin the coaching process with your employees.

    Set the stage

  • Determine the time and place for the coaching session so the employee will feel at ease.

  • Be sure both participants understand the purpose of the coaching session, and emphasize the need for two-way communication.

  • Keep the coaching sessions confidential so the employee feels able to learn in a non-threatening environment.

  • Understand that this is a professional coaching session and is not a time for joking or gossiping.

  • Ask the employee to prepare for the session by answering several questions: What are my career objectives? What are my professional strengths and weaknesses? What type of assignments do I enjoy the most and feel best qualified to complete? What would I like to focus on during the upcoming coaching session?

    Conduct the coaching session

  • Find a starting point by discussing what the employee already knows.

  • Identify the topic or information to be covered in the coaching session.

  • Provide specific information or demonstrate the new skill in an entertaining way.

  • Ask open-ended questions to evaluate understanding of the new task or skill.

    Evaluate

  • Review the employee's demonstration of the new task or skill.

  • Provide constructive, positive feedback and correct as needed while evaluating your participation in the process.

  • Repeat the coaching session as needed.

    Reward

  • And, finally, offer praise or other rewards for learning and employing the new task or skill.

Former General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch said, "If there is anything I would like to be remembered for it is that I helped people understand that leadership is helping other people grow and succeed. To repeat myself, leadership is not just about you. It's about them."

Managers are rarely fired because of poor technical skills; however, many management careers fail because of an inability to deal with the human resources issues required in today's business climate. Take time to coach your employees and remember . . . it's about them. end of article

Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. Email her at vickid@netdoor.com or call her at 601-310-3594.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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