When should you use coaching?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

Here we consider the times in which the coaching approach is most useful. It is the last post in the current series.

In my office we like to dine out on this little anecdote. A University lecturer we know phoned her HR department and asked “How do I go about getting myself some coaching?” Their reply was, “Why, what’s wrong with you?” This mentality is something we must absolutely avoid if we’re to have any chance of coaching doing its job. Coaching is a fantastic tool to use in all manner of work situations – as we shall see – but only if it’s positioned in a positive way.

So the question remains, when should you use coaching? I suppose the simple answer is, now! Get on with it! Look at all the benefits I’ve illustrated, why wait? But I realise you need a more refined answer than that.

Coaching Skills for Managers

Let’s firstly consider what makes the average manager consider the coaching approach in the first place. After all, the typical work situations we encounter are not new; they’ve been happening for decades, so why do we need a new approach to dealing with them? The answer lies in the ever decreasing effectiveness of the ‘tell and instruct’ approach.

Tell Coach Results Time

Consider the graph above.

When somebody is new to the team, we need obviously to do a certain amount of telling. When people are new, they need information and instructions and it’s arguably a little too soon to be asking for their views on the way forward (although you could really benefit from their objectivity). When time is short, or in crisis situations we need also to tell people what to do, because the needs of the situation require it. There is no time for a debate and the risks of inaction outweigh the risks of doing the wrong thing. The tell style is perfectly appropriate in these situations but then passage of time intervenes and telling becomes first inappropriate and eventually counter productive. People have information and instructions but now want to exercise a little responsibility. Crises eventually pass and things calm down.

Coaching is an investment of time and like all longer term investments, the pay off is not immediate. This can be unacceptable at work and even I would argue that it can sometimes be premature to coach or the timing can be wrong.

So the graph illustrates a cross over point where the effectiveness of telling falls dramatically and coaching comes into its own. Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rules for where this point lies for each individual whom you coach, the real trick is for you to become aware of their changing needs and circumstances and spot when it’s time to switch lines.

Do you have what it takes to be a coaching manager?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

This post continues our look at coaching qualities. Check back in two weeks for a detailed look at when to use coaching.

coachingHow can we summarise the skills, knowledge and experience required to give us a profile of an effective coaching manager? It would seem that the first requirement is for the manager to find time to coach; to take ‘time out’ from their own duties to provide regular coaching input.

The coaching manager then establishes their credibility by undertaking their own job conscientiously and competently. They do not worry about being the font of all wisdom for the entire team. A manager who coaches will endeavour to set a good example and be an appropriate role model, but they are secure enough to avoid ‘pulling rank’ or having to rely on position power, i.e. that which comes with the job description and place in the organisation’s pecking order.

Managers who coach are natural advocates of their people, encouraging and supporting them, especially when things are not going well. They give praise when it is due, but deal with poor performance in a straightforward and understanding manner. Managers who coach treat each individual as a person in their own right; uniquely different from other employees with whom they interact at work.

So to be a coach in a work context, these are the attributes you must develop. But are these not the same attributes that we’ve always needed to be an effective manager of people at work? Whilst we use the terms coaches and coaching do we not simply mean employing the knowledge, skills and personal qualities that those people seen as effective people managers always have? Assuming you are reading this because you are, or are about to become, a manager of people, I think you can afford to feel encouraged because you must already have these attributes developed to some degree anyway. You would not be in the job if you didn’t. As managers of people we are coaches – and always have been – but we can certainly develop our capabilities and improve our results by becoming aware of the factors this blog highlights.

More on coaching qualities

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

Here we consider a range of coaching qualities necessary for an effective result. We’ll pick up on some of these themes in the next post in the series in around two week’s time.

qualitiesLet’s take a look at some coaching qualities that are written about less but can have just as much impact on a coach’s success:

Credibility. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be credible. You need to be a good role model for the behaviours you’re encouraging others to develop and you need to know enough about what’s going on to at least be able to know the right questions to ask. You’re likely to be manager and coach to the same group of people and so your credibility is likely to be established anyway. Just be wary of this turning into being seen as the one who must have all the answers.

Trusting. One component of trust in coaching is encouraging the people we coach to trust themselves. If you watch small children play and try new things you’ll see that they trust themselves instinctively. It must be as adults that doubts, fear, limiting beliefs, etc accumulate over time and so the job of the coach is to help our people unlearn such things. This then also requires trust in the coach and trust in the coaching process.

Dislike of Mediocrity. As a coaching manager, we are going to want very high standards. Good enough must no longer be good enough. Whilst we understand the dangers of setting the bar too high when goal setting and so on, we must also recognise the need to encourage people to really go for it when seeking to convert potential into performance. In a similar way I have noticed that organisations with a coaching culture seem to set their standards in absolute rather than relative terms. In other words they are less concerned about beating the competition and more concerned with being the best they can be.

Patience. Coaching on a relatively straightforward, task related situation will produce results immediately. Coaching on more complex subjects requires a degree of patience as high quality thinking can take a little time to find momentum and people think and act at different speeds. The rewards are there, but the manager who coaches may also need to act as a buffer to the pressure and short-termism that may create a cacophony of interference in the minds of the team and so prevent real learning and progress. Of course you’re not immune from these same pressures so a little coaching from your boss or from a colleague may be required.

Detachment. The effective coaching manager is detached from the problem of the person being coached. As a coaching manager this is a much harder trick to pull off than for the independent coach. However, you are much more use to your coachees if you can remain objective and allow them to explore their own ways forward. You are trying to generate responsibility after all. If you think this will be a problem for you, write ‘How detached am I?’ on a sticky note and place it where you’ll see it from time to time.

Non Judgmental. Judgement is weed killer to the flowers of Awareness, Responsibility and Trust. Imagine that during the course of a coaching session I reveal that I find the Operations Director intimidating; that I think his behaviour is arrogant and that basically I’m scared of the guy. Imagine that your reaction is a perfectly innocuous ‘oh come on you’re being pathetic. Let’s see what that does. Firstly my awareness and focus has shifted to considering whether it’s fair and just for you to say that and, if I think it isn’t, my focus now is on arguing my position. Next I’m thinking that this is not a problem I’m able to solve myself and that there’s no point trying. Finally I’ll be disappointed that despite trusting you with my revelation you’ve used it to have a little dig. I’ll be less inclined to disclose things again.

Curiosity. Following this line of thinking how than should you respond to my revelation? Asking questions would be a good start. When did that last happen? What exactly was said? How did you respond? How do you feel looking back? What could you have done differently? What different outcome may have come about? When do you next expect to have dealings with this man? How do you plan to handle it?

Ask me these things and I have to direct my awareness and focus on the nuances of the problem and as we now know, awareness is half the battle or at least the first step. I’m also realising that I have choice and so I am responsible (able to respond). Finally I’m realising that you trust that I can learn how to deal with this and that you’re not going to hold it against me.

Perceptive. Able to pick up the subtleties of communication.

Attentive. Able to be present for the coachee; to focus on the here and now.

Organisation. Whilst coaching is not an administrative chore (or at least ought not to be) there is a need for good personal organization and follow-up systems.

Sense of humour and perspective. I used to work with a salesperson who, every time a sale was lost, would cry ‘oh for Heaven’s sake nobody died!’ An extreme reaction perhaps but one which does reveal a tendency to take ourselves too seriously and attach a bit too much importance to work. In 50 years who’s going to care?