Top performance is almost impossible to achieve without coaching.
As in sports employees need a coach
Most businesses are looking for ways to keep employees involved, motivated and committed to the business vision and objectives.
As a business owner you will be pressed for time, but don’t use that as an excuse for not engaging with coaching, either delivered by yourself or and external advisor.
When employees start showing up late, not performing to expectations, and making unrealistic demands on the business, you will start to worry that they are losing their desire to still work with your business.
Coaching has been used for decades in the sports world to turn gifted athletes into champions. This process is now used in the business (and wider) world as a progressive development tool to help people maximise their potential while maintaining or improving their quality of life.
Today’s world requires us to do more with fewer resources and in less time. We are more often required to adapt to new situations and changing demands driven by the global marketplace and the associated technology. Employees are expected to carry out multiple roles, increasing demands, while trying to have a more satisfying work/life balance.
“A manager is a title, it does not guarantee success. Coaching is an action, not a title and actions will result in successes”. Catharine Pulsifer
In a small organisation, coaching should be solutions focused. A forward moving, action-oriented process which provides an opportunity for individuals to pause, relax, reflect and plan where each individual is heading.
The coaching relationship
Each person has something unique to offer, much within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen. As a coach you take on a combination of four distinct roles that can unlock the potential of your people:
As a Mentor, the coach believes in the person and helps them to create a vision of what it is they are to achieve and to clarify where they want to go with their career.
As a Manager, the coach increases accountability, advising on objectives, strategies and actions to move towards achieving them desired business outcomes. They help to establish measurable targets and to monitor progress and advise on any necessary changes.
As a Personal Trainer, the coach keeps the person to grow and move forward whilst remaining focused on the tasks they have to perform. Together you identify any obstacles and develop strategies for overcoming them. As a personal trainer, you will keep you stretched as well as focused and enjoying their work.
As a Business Coach, you notice the little details and supports improvement in learning and performance. You help refine workflow and work practices to get the outcomes you want.
The importance of coaching
When once committed employees are no longer making the contribution they once delivered to the business, it is a warning sign that coaching is needed to impact organisation results.
In looking for ways to bring about harmonious working relationships, opt for a role as a coach rather hoping for the best or worse still resorting to micro-managing. While an organisation should still have a disciplined framework and performance appraisal system, a coaching program simply adds another layer to improving employee relationships.
Offering a pathway to provide feedback, and offering a roadmap for behaviour guided by goal setting and encouragement will provide far better outcomes.
As with a good football team coach, an organisational coach observes behaviour provides feedback and then creates the strategies to alter the behaviour. The objective is for everyone involved to be aligned with the vision and objectives in such a way that it generates success for everyone involved.
Receiving recommendations on how they can do better and then providing the forum in which they can discuss it and receive the tools to do so has been proven to improve athletes performance and it can do similarly for those in other work environments.
A coach can help integrate new employees into the existing culture, including sharing what are the most acceptable behaviours and practices. This has been proven to help new employees to adjust quickly and settle into their new roles.
It is well accepted that employees become more motivated when they see opportunities for professional development. A coaching program can develop those opportunities for each employee. The coach can share information, knowledge and practical experience as well as work with each employee as they develop the specific skills necessary for a person’s career.
What do you do if you don’t
Employees are the force that drives most organisations. Some owners worry about spending time and money on coaching only to lose the employee. A simple decision is required. Do you train people and run the risk of losing them or do you have to put up with untrained unproductive employees?
As a coach, you can assess the weaker employees in relation to organisational objectives. You can work on skill building with those employees, utilising training programs, tools and processes to improve their performance and contribute to the overall organisation. This will make the new team stronger and more competitive.
Overall, a coaching and training program becomes mutually beneficial and provides a significant return on the investment it takes to create it.
Attributes of effective coaches
Attributes of an effective coach must be based on trust. Trust that the coach will work with the employee without judgment. Other attributes might include the ability to:
- Establish a coaching agreement or letter of engagement.
- An understanding of team dynamics.
- Create a safe environment to explore insights and develop new skills.
- Establish a trusting relationship maintaining confidentiality and empathy.
- Providing a sounding board as well as relatable feedback.
- Asks questions that stimulate new ways of thinking and acting.
- Create and raise awareness of what is possible.
- Establish values that are congruent and the employee can work with.
- Manage the employee’s progress and hold them accountable.
- Demonstrate personal integrity in walking the talk.
- Design and create action plans to change behaviours.
Build an effective coaching program
An effective coaching program starts with effective owner or manager who understands the value of coaching and training their employees. Coaching is more effective when it is used to do one or more of the following:
- To provide a platform for employee motivation about roles and responsibilities the organisation’s purpose and its future.
- Provide an adequate program involving tools and processes to address specific problems, frustrations and challenges.
- Support individual and organisational change, by increasing congruence with the organisation’s values, vision and objectives.
- Enhancing teamwork, and partnering delivering improving results, valuing all employees, and developing the right people for the organisation.
- Build support and facilitate the creation of the organisation’s culture, its values, capacity, learning, creativity, innovation and continuous improvement.
- Support the development of future managers and key employees for the organisation by enhancing ability for strategic thinking, providing vision and direction, accelerating change, motivating and energising employees,
- Offer adequate support to enable personal transformation and career role development and transition.
While there is an overall process, coaching is approached on an individual basis as there is a need for an employee to change their behaviour and develop further or as each new employee comes on board.
In smaller organisations, the owner or manager is generally assigned to be the coaching role. Rather than looking it as a program, which often invokes the idea of a beginning and end to the coaching, look at it as a process which is ongoing and offers continuous improvement.
Start with an initial session that reviews the behaviour, includes input from the employee and offers a specific plan for addressing how to make changes. From there, as the coach you can sit down with the employees and go over is needed by both parties to reach specific objectives and to plan an action plan. This process can continue until the behaviour is changed and the objectives are reached.
A written plan is a good addition to the coaching process because it provides a clear framework that can inform employees and be used for monitoring and measure progress. This can be combined with performance reviews to assess positive changes and accomplishments along the way that can be rewarded.
The test of a good coach is that when they leave, others will carry on successfully.
Starting effective coaching
Include appropriate alternative behaviours so the employee can understand what the ideal behaviours should be in alignment with the organisational culture. Coaching can be likened to playing chess, you move one step at a time.
Don’t look at employees as clones because they are individuals and will think, say, and do things differently than you might. Selecting the right person for the right job is an important part of coaching.
Separate your manager hat, which you have on when you are handing out tasks, from your coaching hat, which you should wear to work on business and personal development.
Understanding other people’s perspectives is a great way to improve relationships. But, teams still need to follow ground rules so they can accomplish their goals.
Continually coach employees rather than looking at it like training that may only happen once a year. It should be ongoing as required. On again, off again is to be avoided.
“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear”. John Madden
Use positive reinforcement to shape behavioural changes in employees to keep them motivated over the longer-term.
Focus on incremental changes rather than large behavioural changes. True change happens over time in a step-by-step fashion. Allow the needed ‘practice time’ for the employee.
Coaching to improve a person’s performance can need different approaches for different people. What works for one may not necessarily work for another.
Be sure your coaching program is flexible that can adjust to the needs of employees who are looking to improve themselves and for the organisation that is seeking more highly motivated, productive employees on the way to achieving the vision.
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Improving a team’s performance will take time, and it may involve looking at entrenched behaviour, systems, tools and processes.
Everything I’ve learned about coaching, I’ve learned from making mistakes. Failure is good as long as you learn from it. Coaching has the main purpose of systematically removing every obstacle that is stopping you from creating your ideal business and lifestyle.
Rewards and recognition should never be overlooked. Money is not the key driver of most employees today.
I recall being coached for three weeks by a member of the American Cross Country Ski Team. Wow, what an experience. The upshot was that while my skiing improved out of sight, I was not good material for such a coach to take onto the world stage.