Good leadership means developing your staff and this is where coaching can help – so what's the problem? Rus Slater isn't shaken or stirred by the familiar excuses, which he tackles head-on.
Much has been written on these pages over recent months relating to the subject of coaching, one thing that becomes clear is that there is a wealth of difference in opinion as to what constitutes coaching and what constitutes advising or consulting.
This healthy difference of opinion stimulates debate and widens the forum, which is good. What is generally agreed is that coaching is about improving performance of others and for the purposes of this article I’m going to look at coaching as defined as 'helping individuals to improve their own performance' rather than 'advising individuals how to improve their performance based on the coach’s experience'.
Rus Slater, independent L&D specialist
Such coaching brings two disparate benefits; firstly the individual finds solutions to their problems and secondly they learn, gradually and intuitively to self-coach. This latter may seem rather minimal but many people today have grown up with 'learned dependency' and unlearning this is a huge benefit to an individual.
Learned dependency however, cuts both ways and, in times of redundancies and cutbacks, many managers are tempted, perhaps unwittingly, to foster a state of learned dependency in their staff, since it strengthens their own state of security.
I’d like to look at the reasons that most managers (as opposed to professional coaches) cite as preventing coaching in the workplace.
When I ask: "What prevents you from coaching your staff on a day to day basis?" I get a range of answers but they usually include:-
Time - Coaching takes too long, it is quicker to either be prescriptive and tell, or do it yourself.
Culture - This organisation has a 'command and control' culture (or defined processes that must be followed) so helping people to find their own solutions is frowned upon.
The coachees - (not to be confused with Cochise, an Apache chief, or the college of the same name in the USA) staff don’t want to be coached/staff expect me to provide them with strong leadership/staff resent being expected to find their own solutions when I get paid more than them.
We are going to look at each of these barriers in turn and see how supportable they are as real preventers of coaching.
When managers are introduced to the GROW or OSCAR model their first perception is that there is going to be a huge investment in time to go through all the stages, and this is completely understandable;
You have to set/investigate a SMART goal, then consider all the realities using the BECKS mnemonic, then re-assess whether the goal is/was appropriate, then identify all the options, weigh them up in comparison of cost/benefit, choose the best fit and define the plan you will put into place.
Put like that it can take a long time, but since the human mind works at a most incredible rate this process can be completed from start to finish in five minutes. Many good coaches refer to this as Martini Coaching; for those of us old enough to remember the adverts from the 1970s this Martini coaching is 'anytime, anyplace, anywhere'. To carry out Martini coaching you don’t need an office and peace and quiet: you can coach by the coffee machine, you can coach on a stroll across the car park to the sandwich bar, you can coach on the phone.
Coaching doesn’t have to mean the onset of anarchy or even democracy. I spent several years as an officer in the Army and I certainly got a lot of real coaching from my Senior NCOs. These were people who recognised that I was their boss, but knew that they knew more than me. They could have just told me what the score was but that would have been contrary to the hierarchical structure of the system, so they coached me, they asked the right questions and helped me to find the right answers. I learned, they gained a knowledgeable boss and no one lost face.
My commanding officers did the same, when the situation did not call for directive leadership. Indeed one of my COs was such a past-master at coaching that he used to delegate a large amount of his own work as 'practice opportunity'!
Generally speaking the problem isn’t the coachees, but the coach. If staff don’t want to be coached because they are getting away with poor performance then the short answer to the manager is, don’t coach - be directive, that is what you are paid for!
A confident coach, with a high level of self-esteem, will normally have little difficulty in explaining to a staff member why it is better for both parties for the staff member to find their own solutions.
Even if, as a manager, you cannot hold out any realistic hope of promotion for a member of your team, you can still offer them the option to self improve; be it for the sake of the team, their own sense of self-worth or job satisfaction, or even their prospects outside!
Good leadership includes the development of people to their best potential, and coaching helps you both to achieve that.
Rus Slater is an independent L&D specialist who can be contacted through www.coach-and-courses.com
Notes for readers:
I use the term professional in both it’s guises; those who earn a living from the activity and those who hold recognised qualifications in the discipline.
SMART - Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Relevant, Timebound (Or something similar; there are apparently over 1,700 versions).
BECKS - Behaviours, Environment, Clarity, Knowledge and Skills.