How to… coach staff and support development

16 October 2015
How to… coach staff and support development

Coaching can be a way of encouraging your best employees to excel or can help those staff who need extra support, says David Guile

Every business faces the same vital question: how to develop and retain key personnel, and in particular high-flyers. Establishing an effective coaching programme will empower the team while also embedding a culture of professional development.

Well-planned coaching sessions offer a tailored chance to focus on vital areas. These sessions will act as a catalyst, maximising individual potential and performance for the benefit of the business.

Coaching is about change and action. It empowers individuals to seize responsibility and develop their personal skills by committing to specific steps which can be measured, and which support their career development.

Coaching is flexible. It can take place at all levels of an organisation, in response to the needs of the business. Common areas covered include time management, conflict resolution and giving feedback.

Coaching can also be invaluable when an individual moves from one role to another, takes on more responsibility, or needs support to enable her or him to get the most out of a wider team of colleagues.

Steps to starting the coaching process

  • Identify and agree an area that needs to be developed in order to benefit the individual and the business.
  • Agree a concrete goal or objective. Once articulated, this goal will serve as a yardstick against which to measure progress and a target at which to aim. In order to inspire, a goal has to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past, and it must stretch and challenge while remaining realistic.
  • If a goal is unrealistic, it will lead to a loss of hope. If it isn't challenging enough, it won't provide sufficient motivation.
  • A successful coach will allow the person being coached time to reflect and space to think.
  • Listening is a vital part of successful coaching, but it is more complex and difficult than many imagine. Understanding rather than just hearing is the key. Summarise what you think you've heard in order to confirm genuine understanding. Also try and discuss the things which aren't being said, as well as those which are.
  • Ensure the person being coached has fully explained their current situation and how they feel about the areas being focused upon. Discover exactly what the opportunities are, what they feel is holding them back and what solutions have already been tried.
  • Open-ended questions are more likely to lead to greater understanding. Questions framed with ‘when', ‘what' and ‘who' are more effective than those based around ‘why' and ‘how'. The latter may lead to the person being coached feeling challenged and adopting defensive, closed thought patterns.
  • Incisive and challenging questions will encourage the recipient to pause, reflect and examine their own thought patterns.
  • Use questioning and encouragement to guide the person being coached toward reconsidering the relevant issues and reviewing their options. Encourage them to ask what they could have done, what steps they've considered and what they need to do to achieve their stated goals. The fact that they come up with solutions, rather than having answers presented to them, creates a sense of ownership. Use your own experiences to mentor, offering support and advice without being overly judgemental or directive.
  • Having been presented with options by the person being coached, review them and set concrete actions designed to achieve the agreed goal. Gain commitment on when and how these actions will be met, and insist on highly specific answers. If needed, create a challenge by asking what could get in the way of the actions being performed, and discuss relevant solutions to these hurdles.
  • Set up a firm review process. A good coach will be patient, offer support, listen and build a trusting relationship. The end result will be to maximise the potential and achievement of the person being coached.

David Guile is an executive coach and business consultant

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