Should you be coaching your team?
In the past few years, more and more of our clients are asking about coaching programs for their staff.
Without a doubt coaching has become the fashionable management tool of choice.
I conduct a lot of business coaching sessions.When I’m asked to describe what it is I normally say “it’s about helping individuals or a team to fulfill their potential”.
My concern is very few companies really understand what it is, who should do it, who should be coached and how it can become part of your culture?
As a cricketer I always had coaches. They had different styles. Some would be very directive. You need to do this this and this or you simply won’t get picked. Others would be more consultative.
How do you think you bowled today? What about when you went around the wicket to the left handers? Some would be more supportive.Hey, keep it up, you’re going well and a big performance could be just around the corner.
Business coaching could be viewed in much the same way.
Directive: Here’s what you really need to do, by when and how.
Consultative: Based on questions. How do you think that sales call went? What about the part when you tried to ask for the business?
Supportive: Is there anything particular I can do to assist you? Do you need any additional resources, some 1-1 time with me or some professional development in a particular area?
You need to decide what would be the best approach for the person you are coaching. Over time as they develop their skills you may need to adjust your approach with them.
8 tips for developing a coaching culture at your company
If you are thinking about introducing a coaching culture to your company I’d suggest the following 8 tips.
- Make sure you understand that not everyone will respond well to coaching and not everyone will become a very good coach
- Being aware of what coaching is and being able to coach are two very separate entities
- For coaching to work it requires the coachee and the coach to respect each other and appreciate the mutual benefits
- Most of the time you are best to apply the 80-20 principle to coaching your staff. Spend 80% of your coaching time and energy with the 20% of staff who are receptive to being coached
- Coaching doesn’t need to be done formally (unlike performance reviews)
- Coaching should be ongoing, not done at specific times
- Without realistic action plans being developed during and at the end of a coaching session the benefits of coaching will be very hard to measure
- Most people despite what they say will have had very little experience of effectively coaching individuals in the work place
How to coach
Ultimately how you coach will depend on who you are coaching. The skill of the experienced coach is to adjust their approach in accordance with the coachee. There are a number of coaching models that explain the general coaching process.
One of the best books on coaching is The Tao of Coaching, by Max Landsberg.
He describes the coachee’s game plan as:
The Coachee’s game plan
Landsberg uses the GROW model as a tool for coaching. It is a useful tool and an easy acronym to remember.
Goal – (What do you want to achieve from this session?)
Reality – (How are things progressing at the moment?)
Options – (Can we discuss a few ideas that might help?)
What Next – (Who needs to do what, by when, what support is needed)
I’ve found that in the best coaching sessions that I conduct I would only be speaking for about 20% of the session. Most of the time I would be asking open questions to try and help the coachee better understand and appreciate why they are doing what they are doing.
1. Set the context
- Diagnose skill and will
- Agree the approach
- Build trust
2. Provide ongoing coaching
- Use GROW sessions (20 – 60 minutes)
- Provide feedback (actionable, frequent, 5 – 10 minutes)
- Give praise (frequent, where warranted, 1 + minutes)
- Illustrate actively
3. Conclude effectively
- Encourage coaches to reflect
- Elicit feedback for coach
- Agree next steps
If I am coaching experienced sales people the following would be the sorts of questions I may use:
- If we had to conduct that sales call again would you do anything differently?
- How do you feel the customer felt about the price increase?
- Why do you think the customer stood up when she did?
- What did you notice about the relationship between the two people we saw?
- How do you think they will make a decision about using us / this service?
I like to develop an Action Plan as I work through a coaching session. At the end of the session the Action Plan can always be refined. If there are no actions coming out of a session I would argue the session has been of fairly limited value.
Why most managers won’t become good coaches
- To become a good coach, one who is respected and achieves results takes time. From my experience most of the managers I have worked with are not willing to invest the time required to become an effective coach. Typically they are too busy chasing down new deals, recruiting new staff or putting out fires. Coaching sounds nice and yes, they’d like to be doing it, but they rarely actually do it. When I am asking staff about how often they have been coached in recent months, the normal response is not often enough.
The chances of becoming a good coach by attending a course on coaching are about the same as becoming a good swimmer by going to a swimming lesson. You need to be coaching on a regular basis to get better it. You also have to have a genuine willingness to see others grow and develop.
You need to be able to somehow assess if you’re coaching has been effective. This could be through measuring staff retention, attitude, increases in revenue, increased skills in the specific and related areas you have been coaching.
If you are shallow and insecure about your leadership skills you will almost certainly avoid coaching.
Ultimately a good coach should over time be almost able to put themselves out of a job.
How can I become a better coach?
- Start coaching as often possible
- Start reading more about coaching and noticing the different ways people coach
- Ask for feedback from the people you are coaching about how you are going and how you could improve
- Track the actions coming out of coaching sessions and consistently assess against these. The message sent is rarely the same as the message received
- Attend a few sessions on coaching to learn more about what is involved
- If you have children that play sport volunteer to coach one of their sides one season. If you can handle the parents of junior sporting kids you’re set for almost any coaching assignment
What about over coaching
Former Australian test cricket captain Ian Chappell once said that the Australian coach was something that the team toured around England in. His views of over coaching are very clear.
There is a danger that you can interfere far too much in an employees development through over coaching. From my experience, 95% of managers, partners, directors under coach. For the few that may coach too much I’d suggest be wary of spending too much time with the coachee. Think of the old Chinese proverb. If a man asks you for a fish and you give him a fish he will keep asking.
Teach him how to fish and you are free to move on.
Recommended reading on coaching
- Coaching for Improved Work Performance, Ferdinand F Fournies
- The Tao of Coaching, Max Landsberg
- The One Minute Manager, Kennith Blanchard
- The Inner Game of Golf, Tim Gallway
- A Practical Guide to Growing Your Own Skills, John Whitmore
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey