Posts Tagged ‘Coaching skills’

The benefits of coaching for the coach

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

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There are powerful reasons for becomming a manager who coaches

There are powerful reasons for becomming a manager who coaches

If you’ve a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I believe there is a compelling case for managers in organizations to become effective coaches. Let’s now turn our sights to the personal benefits derived from doing so.

 The big prize is improved performance. Both the improved performance of a well-coached team and your own performance as their boss. This is important as increasingly organizations are waking up to the fact that managers ought to be judged on their ability to get results from others. Some go as far as to include measures in these areas in their performance review systems. I think it’s very encouraging to see targets concerning coaching and development alongside those for sales and cost containment. It’s also crucial for the modern manager to recognize that managing is different to doing. The most obvious example perhaps being in the sales environment when many managers struggle with not being able to get out in the field to sell their wares themselves, but having to influence their team to do so instead.

Allied to this then is the benefit of saving time. Traditional management positions us as being the person with the answers, so if a team member approaches us with a problem we tell them how to solve it. Of course the next time there’s a similar problem we’re approached again for an answer and more of our time is absorbed. I’m sure you don’t need to me to tell you how exhausting this becomes. If through coaching we help people develop some skills and independence at the same time as solving a problem then soon they are able to solve problems for themselves and we have more time to do more coaching and build this capability still further.

All of this leads to improved relationships; another key benefit for the coaching manager. Coaching, with its emphasis on asking questions such that people can discover answers for themselves, honours other people’s intelligence. We are demonstrating our positive view of their ability and when people are valued in this way they begin to see management and managers in a different light. They are more forthcoming in coaching conversations, more willing to show initiative without waiting to be told and thus another helpful loop and has been established.

Telling and instructing on the other hand fails to tap into other people’s abilities, their thinking muscles go into atrophy and they become quite resentful of a situation which finds them simply following orders. A coaching approach will also tap into each individual’s internal drivers or motivation and avoid you having to rely on company policy regarding salary and rewards as the only source of motivation. If these more external sources of motivation are inappropriate that they can actually do more harm than good.

So, to use a cliché, adopting coaching principles will see you able to work on your team, rather than in your team. As your people become more willing and able to take on matters of task, it frees your time – and your mind – to concentrate on longer term priorities and solving problems once and for all rather than firefighting each time they recur. An ability to do this is a skill highly prized by employers and it’s no surprise to see coaching now listed amongst the essential skills required in management job advertisements. Developing an ability to coach will do your career prospects no harm at all.

Ready, Aim…..

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

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Always aim to have an aim

Always aim to have an aim

We all have a variety of aims in every aspect of our lives. We might aim to be effective parents or good managers, or we might aim to lose weight or achieve a certain level of income.

One of the most useful things you can do as a coach is to help your coachees make sense of their aims and to encourage them to commit to a course of action that will help them achieve these aims. However, there are different types of aims, with some being quite vague and others being very precise; and certain aims are more useful to focus on than others.

Let’s take the example of Olympic athletes. They will probably ‘dream’ of an Olympic gold medal but it would be dangerous to focus too heavily on this as, no matter how good an athlete they may be, they cannot legislate for what the competition might do.

Instead athletes tend to set ‘performance goals’ such as personal bests. In this way they focus on the goals over which they have some control, such as running a race in a certain time or achieving a certain distance in a jumping or throwing event.

However day by day it is most likely that they will concentrate on processes. For our athlete this might mean working on technique, or building stamina. In other words the detailed steps necessary to achieve the performance goal that will in turn give them the best possible chance of achieving their dream.

The same is true in business. We might dream of being the top performing salesperson in the company this year, but we cannot control how the other sales people will perform. So we might set a performance goal of achieving 5% commission income this year instead, in the hope that such a performance might be good enough to achieve our dream.

However the only way to achieve our performance goals is to concentrate on the processes, e.g. questioning technique and handling objections. So we might set an aim of, say, asking twice as many ‘open’ as ‘closed’ questions, or responding to an objection twice before admitting defeat.

In summary, whenever we think about our aims in life we need dreams to provide the inspiration, performance goals to provide the specification and processes to provide the mechanism for achievement. We’ll now look at each of these aspects in more detail.


As a coach you are there to encourage your people to dream and to think big. Remember coaches believe in the vast reserves of potential in all people and as we begin our coaching conversations by discussing aims it is vital that we encourage people to stretch themselves.

At no point must we ever pour scorn on people’s high aims and dreams.

More often than not the thing that holds people back is a set of limiting beliefs and these have a habit of becoming true. If, for example, our parents continually wince every time we sing a tune as a small child then we are likely to believe that we cannot sing and therefore we will never be inclined to learn and make changes in order to be able to sing. Vocalists pass air over their vocal cords to make a noise, there is no reason why any of us should not be able to do this and sing well given time, support and practice.

As coaches we can be our team’s advocate constantly encouraging, supporting and helping people to believe that they can achieve their aims.

Performance Goals

Typically, in a business setting, we will need to concentrate, in the main on performance goals.

These will usually come to us via our organization’s performance management system and will include the various standards and targets we are expected to achieve in the coming year or so.

We need to think about making sure that a performance goal is formulated in such a way as to give us the best chance of success.

Most people know the mnemonic SMART and its many derivatives, but the point is to create a detailed ‘end-point’ to provide focus, not to follow a model slavishly.

We can use coaching questions to make sure that people have constructed well thought out and balanced performance goals.


Processes are the building blocks towards achieving performance goals and are an incredible way of helping us focus on the small steps that in turn will lead to the big results.

We are concerned with using our coaching skills to help others make changes and improve their performance. We cannot do this by asking them to change dreams; we cannot do it even by tightening up their performance goals. Change, and therefore improvement can only take place at the level of process.


A tale of two managers

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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Sam & Gene

Sam & Gene

A long time ago in an organization far, far, away…

Let me introduce Sam and Gene. They are both managers in a Business Development Agency. They each run teams of advisors whose job it is to interact with the business community offering advice and guidance and, where appropriate, grant funding for business development projects.

Actually none of that is true; I made it up. Same and Gene are fictional, but their characteristics are an amalgam of many managers I have known. I think you’ll recognize them too. They could work in any organization; large or small, private or public; profit making or not. Their problems are with the people side of their work and this is what we shall concern ourselves with too. Same and Gene are male but that too is irrelevant to the tale and certainly does not explain the mixed fortunes they enjoy. We’ll also say that they are of a similar age, background and level of educational achievement.

Let’s start with Gene. It is Gene’s opinion that success is a result of a strong management style. He likes to give clear, precise instructions to his team so that nobody is uncertain about what is required.  A highly competitive man in all aspects, Gene likes to win and encourages his team to be similarly motivated. He has a low tolerance for mistakes so his team tends to check and recheck all work. This takes time and makes output poor but accuracy is good and the tellings off are fewer. In the short term Gene gets results, but throughout his career he has been frustrated by the tendency for results to tail off and worsen over time. He feels his teams become complacent and lazy too quickly and that he has to drive them harder and harder just to maintain standards.

Sam is also convinced that success is a result of a strong management style. He likes to engage with the members of his team as much as he can and finds that when he asks questions and gets his people thinking, they seem to take more ownership for problems and approach their work with more enthusiasm and innovation. When errors occur Sam likes to make sure that lessons are learned and the same mistakes never occur twice in his team. Sam’s reputation is as a long game player. His senior managers know they have to be patient but Sam gets spectacular results in the end. For his part Sam is frustrated that results are so long in coming and wishes there was a way to speed things up.

There was no talk of coaching in Sam and Gene’s day, but it was undoubtedly a feature a Sam’s style and a missing component of Gene’s. Whilst they each enjoyed success it was Sam who prevailed over the long term. With an even better understanding of coaching, Sam could have accelerated his results and Gene – if he added coaching to his skill set – could have used his obvious strengths to even greater effect, and over the longer term.

This is a precursor to my various articles – some you’ll find on line already, others are still in my head –  about coaching. I won’t pretend that coaching offers you a silver bullet to slay all your people problems or that coaching is a panacea to solve all work place ills. I want to offer straightforward, practical, proven tactics for using coaching to get results through people; which in the end is the essence of management in my view.

So whether you’re a Gene or a Sam or somewhere on the spectrum between the two, I hope this article stimulates your thinking and encourages you to do further research. You will soon become a manager who coaches and thus a manager who is successful.