Coaching has become part method, part technique and part buzzword when people are describing the process of developing employees. The idea that not only does everyone have the ability to coach, but it is now almost a necessity for effective managers to coach, is a leading force in successful organizations. Coaching is not holding a one-day or weekend seminar for magic transformation, although many wish this were true. People do not get better by attending a one-off event, they get better through a process, as coaching is not a get-skills-quick proposition. Coaching is not just about getting results; it’s about getting results for and through others. You can't do a great job coaching by just believing in yourself, you must believe steadfastly in the potential development of those you lead.
Coaching revolves around people and change. Honing your coaching skills as a leader means you are someone who truly cares about people and you are a change expert. You are not there for them to totally rely on you. You must be able to encourage them to take charge of their own careers and take actions that maximize their potential. Coaching revolves around a dialogue between people, not a monologue by the coach. As a coach, you must be searching for the keys to unlocking the potential in those you lead in order to fuel their growth.
Here are five best practices you can use in the process of coaching your team members:
1. Identify areas of development
Taking into consideration you have clearly identified the behaviors and skills the job requires, you probably realize no person is probably going to come in perfectly matched for a role. This creates a couple of options. Do they need skill development or do they need coaching, or do they need both? Let’s say an employee has enough desirable skill sets for you to hire them for the job, however they are missing one or two essential skills. This requires skill development. If they have all the skill sets needed but they need honing and sharpening, then the answer is coaching. In most situations I have been involved in, both skill development and coaching are required.
2. Encourage initiative and improvement
You can’t create initiative and energy. You have to make sure they are present when you make the hire. Making the assumption you have done that and initiative is present, you need to be the kind of coach who encourages the usage of it. You always want people you have to focus, direct or slightly pull back. You don’t want someone you have to push forward all the time. When your employee takes initiative, make sure you encourage that as well as when they are making improvements through trying new and different approaches and methods. The key here is to clearly communicate where initiative is appreciated, rather than leaving them to figure it out on their own.
3. Expresses confidence in their ability to perform
This goes hand in hand with hiring people with initiative. The same applies with confidence. You want to make sure your team members have an adequate level of confidence and a healthy self-esteem. When team members lack these things, you spend more time building up their confidence and soothing over paranoia and hurt feelings than you do working toward improved performance.
4. Provide opportunities for development
You need to be looking down the road where each of your team members is concerned, at least a year or two. As you are visioning a path forward for them, you need to clarify with yourself what your expectations for them are as far as growth is concerned. What do they need to work on? In what areas do they need to be better? You need to make sure these things are clear to you, so you can clearly communicate with them. You don’t have to give them the whole plan, although you can if you want. I prefer to lay out a year down the road, then proceed quarter by quarter and add to the development little by little as we go and improvement is demonstrated.
5. Acknowledge improvements
One of the biggest causes of employee disengagement is employees do not feel that people in charge know who they are or what they do. In smaller teams this is not as big an issue as in bigger organizations. When you acknowledge improvements in your team members’ performance it creates enthusiasm. Everyone, at least those with a healthy self-esteem, loves acknowledgement and praise for a job well done.
Tony Richards is an organizational and executive development expert and the CEO of Clear Vision Development Group, a leadership and strategy firm in Columbia. He is one of INC Magazine’s Top 100 leadership speakers and thinkers. His firm’s website is www.clearvisiondevelopment.com. Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyrichards4.