Posts Tagged ‘Coaching skills for managers’

What percentage of people’s potential do you see at work?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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What percentage of people's potential do you see at work?I have asked this question dozens of times at seminars and training courses and have yet to get an answer of 100% or even close.  Most responses come in the 30% – 60% range suggesting that there’s a lot of ability out there that remains untapped. That’s a pretty strong business case for having effective coaching at work I would suggest. After all, you pay for 100% potential, but how much do you actually get?

But how do people even form a view? On what do we base our estimates? Asked to justify their answer people will point to a variety of explanations. I remember one lady telling me about a member of her team who was difficult and unpopular at work yet who achieved great results as a youth volunteer in his spare time. On another occasion somebody highlighted the many working mums tucked out of sight in mundane roles despite being able to run a household, raise children and run the family finances at the same time. What if work was organised in such a way as to give people a chance to let these hidden talents shine through?

Often the answer is ‘I’ve absolutely no idea what percentage of people’s potential we see at work!‘. We can fairly easily see the results or outcomes of using potential by way of the amount or quality of a person’s work; their performance in other words. But judging how much of their potential was used to bring this about is difficult, time consuming and arguably unnecessary. Unless we want performance and results to improve of course, in which case it’s vital to understand how much capacity for improvement there might be.

I believe there is a compelling case for organisations to spend more time considering potential. Businesses obsess over performance and results and rightly so as this is how we determine how well we’re doing, but in terms of making changes and improving things we need to start thinking in terms of potential; what we could do, just as much as what we have done.

Unfortunately the world of work is not organised this way. It is hard to make a case for retaining an employee who is under performing but whom we sense could go on to great things. Employers understandably hedge their bets and seek to buy proven potential directly from the labour market. Top jobs are to be filled only by those on the graduate development programme. External candidates must have the ‘right’ MBA and so on. But just as with the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future results. What people have done is not necessarily linked to what they could do. Nevertheless, we can’t employ people based on a leap of faith or retain poor performers on the basis of benefit of the doubt, but we do need to manage them in such a way as to give them every chance to let their potential come out.

Potential is by definition latent – i.e. hidden or under-developed – and so we cannot ask prospective employees to bring a sort of ‘certificate of potential’ with them to the recruitment or promotion interview. We have, instead, to take a view on how much potential a person may have and this view is likely to be informed by our own beliefs and values and by our own experience at work.

More on this next time.

Was your coaching a success?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles


Successful CoachingWarning! Coaching is about people not numbers. You will never be able to prove beyond all doubt that coaching is the sole cause of any performance improvement. To try to do so will prove exhausting and you are better off spending your energy on coaching more people.

Notwithstanding the above you may want – or be asked – to show that your coaching has been successful. This short section will provide some basic pointers and you can then do further research if you wish.

The ultimate type of evaluation is known as ‘Return on Investment’. Here we are trying to put a financial value on any benefits that coaching has brought about and compare that to the financial cost of providing the coaching. Hopefully the benefits outweigh the costs and thus a return is demonstrated. It can get extremely complicated, but the following list gives the most common items that would be considered under each heading.

Costs Benefits
Coaching Skills training Increases in revenue


Travel, accommodation, etc

Decreases in costs
Opportunity* Increases in productivity
Improvements in quality
Increased effectiveness
Changes in attitude and behaviour
New knowledge acquired
New skills acquired


*Opportunity costs are the costs of doing something else. A salesperson taking time out to coach instead of sell would be missing their normal sales opportunities and this would be the opportunity cost.

Note that we would obviously factor in the costs of an external coach where that is the case or you could calculate a time cost for an internal manager providing coaching if you prefer.

The costs should be fairly easy to identify or calculate but establishing the benefits is less straightforward. You have three main sources of data; the coach, the coach’s manager and the coach’s staff (their coachees). These can be considered the main stakeholders in the success of coaching and I would recommend that you collect information from all three.

The tools you can use for data collection include:

Interviews. You can interview all three stakeholder groups to ascertain their views on the benefits that coaching has achieved. You may like to consider pre and post coaching interviews as these can show a more accurate movement from one state to another.

Self reports. If both coaches and coachees keep journals of their coaching experience these can add real insight to evaluating success. However, they are very subjective, which needs to be allowed for, and can soak up a lot of time in completing.

360 degree feedback. Many organisations have existing 360-degreee (feedback from managers, subordinates, clients, etc) frameworks and it is usually quite straightforward to include coaching amongst the attributes on which feedback is sought.

Observation. Direct observation can be very valuable, but remember that people rarely behave in an entirely natural way when being observed.

Using a blend of these approaches or using different tools over time is likely to give the best results and offer the most reliable data.



Coaching and the Hawthorne Effect

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

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Isn't it nice to be noticed?

Isn't it nice to be noticed?

If you want to see an immediate boost in levels of motivation, fire up your word processor and create a quick questionnaire for each of your team members which asks:

  •  What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
  • What aspect of your job do you least enjoy?
  • What aspect of your job would you most like to see stay the same?

Type up and issue one questionnaire for each member of your team. You may need to explain that you’re looking at ways to improve motivation and that the starting point is getting a better idea of what makes them tick.

You can get people to put their names on the sheets if you like or you can do it anonymously if you think you’ll get a more honest response.

If you think issuing questionnaires is a bit heavy-handed, pop the questions on a flip chart or white board and have an open team discussion around them. Alternatively if there’s a scheduled performance review or appraisal coming up, factor the questions into your one to one discussions.

In any event you’ll be gathering valuable information about levels and types of motivation in the team which you can use to develop a long-term approach.

However, I promised this tip would improve motivation straight away and it will. Here’s how it works: By asking people questions you’ll be paying them attention and you’ll benefit from the ‘Hawthorne effect’

Perhaps the most famous experiments in motivation were carried our by management researcher Elton Mayo and his team at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne plant in Chicago. Between 1924 and 1932, five sets of tests were conducted in an attempt to understand what made workers assembling telephone equipment more productive.

To begin with the experiments concentrated on improvements to lighting. Productivity indeed improved, but it also improved when the lights were dimmed. This odd result was repeated in experiments which looked at pay, incentives, rest periods, hours of work, and supervision. Mayo advanced two theories.

He firstly suggested that the very fact of being involved in an experiment encouraged the workers to be more productive. It created interest and involvement in their repetitive work, and their managers began taking an interest in how they felt. Mayo’s second theory was that social interaction had a critical effect on motivation because the experiment meant bringing workers together in teams with a positive relationship with a supervisor. In any event it seemed the workers simply appreciated the change the experiments brought about, felt more valued and generally happier and thus their performance improved. So just by issuing your questionnaire you’re showing that you’re taking an interest in your people and that you value their contribution. You should see results improve even if you did nothing more.

This questioning approach lies at the heart of management by coaching. If you embrace the coaching role you’ll be paying this sort of quality attention to your staff every working day. The improvements that follow can be quite staggering. With coaching as the prevailing style you can ensure a constant level of motivation, not just the quick fillip provided by waving the carrot or the stick.