In this article, I’ll look at the basics of coaching in the workplace and provide 7 tips and key approaches that you can use to be a successful coach.
The process of coaching typically involves developing a skill already learned or mentoring team members to help them develop and improve performance. The key point to remember is that if your team or group already possesses some level of competence you are then coaching, if you are working with a group with no prior experience then you are instructing or teaching.
- Instructing involves imparting new knowledge.
- Coaching involves developing and building on the knowledge already learned.
- Training involves a combination of both instructing and coaching.
1) Identifying Development Goals
Coaching is about developing others and helping them achieve their goals. You’re there to support the individual, once you have discussed and identified their ‘why’ then you should guide them towards ‘the how’. Get them to think about where they are now and where they want to go in the future (think 1 year from now, 2 years, 5 years etc.).
The ability to help others gain self-awareness is a key skill for a coach. Once a developmental goal has been identified then it’s time to review options, opportunities, and possibilities. Try to use questions to engage team members, get them to review their current performance level, and identify any gaps in skills and knowledge.
One of the most popular models used at this initial stage of the development process is the GROW model as outlined below:
- Goals: What do you want to achieve?
- Reality: What steps have you completed so far? What has been the result?
- Options: What options/alternatives are available?
- Way Forward: How can you move forward? What do you need to do?
This model should provide an easy-to-use framework to establish some clear goals that lead to action.
2) Facilitate Learning
It’s important to remember as mentioned above that the coach or mentor is a facilitator, not an instructor. The word facilitation is taken from the French word, ‘Facile’ which means to make easy.
It is key that as a facilitator you lead your team members to the right answer and you use good questions to make it easy for them to get to the right answer (or solution). By using questions, you allow them to learn through self-discovery, and at the same time it encourages them to take accountability for their own learning by discovering ‘the how’.
The effective coach works with the employee to find learning methods that suit them. They help the employee to clarify how they learn best, and create a development plan to make sure the coaching and mentoring process works best for them.
The most important skill a coach must practice is active listening (the opposite being passive listening). We often take listening for granted, we assume if we start to speak the person we are trying to speak will always listen to what we say (anyone who is married knows this isn’t the case).
When someone tries to ensure the other person fully understands, it forces them to revisit the issue and see it clearly themselves by clarifying their own understanding – this will help them become more aware and make a better decision on how they can move forward.
Being a good listener also helps build a better rapport with team members and means you can respond appropriately, ensuring you ask the right questions. The Development of good listening skills can be a huge asset in life and is an absolute must for being an effective coach.
4) Build Rapport
The easiest way to build a rapport with someone is to listen to them and respond appropriately. At the start of your developmental meeting, establish boundaries and be clear about the learning and development objectives.
Help your employees understand the importance of their development in relation to their job or professional career and help them establish their ‘why’. Discuss your own personal experiences and try to find things you have in common and build trust and mutual respect.
Try to never make promises – if you have no choice, then make sure you follow up on these and provide them with an update as soon as possible. Failure to do so will result in a loss of trust.
5) Remove Barriers
Ask them what’s stopping them from achieving their goal or what problems they expect to encounter during each stage of the development plan. Again, use your own experiences and explain how you overcame your own barriers or fears.
The best way to eliminate these is to discuss them as soon as possible and identify how they can overcome them. Develop a step-by-step action plan, work through them, and provide constant support to help them to see through difficulties.
FEAR = False, Evidence, Appearing, Real
You should also explore any worst-case scenarios, and help them realise that these are seldom as bad as first thought. Help them move beyond these barriers and to feel free.
6) Reviewing and Action Planning
Effective coaching is helping others achieve their goals. At the end of each coaching session, leave enough time to review, check understanding, and confirm an action plan. Make sure you keep notes, and keep these on record with an agreed date to review and follow up. The best development plan is useless unless executed and your employee is clear on what needs to be done to move forwards.
Think about the milestones and expected outcomes as a result of your coaching session and dates for completion. The coach should work with the employee to set meaningful goals and identify steps and behaviours that need to be taken to achieve these goals. Once goals have been established then the employee is now accountable for them.
7) Support and Encourage
Ensure you are available to your employees when they need help, need to vent anger (without judgment), or hit a roadblock. Provide support and motivation and keep them on track when necessary.
When they achieve success, celebrate this with them and congratulate them. Provide feedback and review both their positive and negative behaviours with them. The more time you spend helping them develop will result in them trusting you more, improved communication, and better rapport.