Blog Post

5 Coaching Skills to Use at Work

Leigh Limpic

Strategic Engagement Consultant at Cornerstone OnDemand

For many of us, the best part of being a manager is making a difference in the lives of our team members. We see coaching as an ideal way to help someone become better at what they do and more satisfied in their role. If you’re looking for ways to improve your own coaching skills, consider these five coaching tips:

1) Understand the Purpose of Coaching

Coaching provides employees with a forum to discuss what they want to achieve and creates a roadmap to attain it. It’s a partnership you create with an employee to help them grow and develop. Because coaching initiates from the employee’s desires and perspective, it is very motivating and challenging for them. For coaching to be effective, it needs to be based on something that is important to the employee on a personal level, giving them value and meaning at work. As a result of coaching, the employee feels empowered and connected with you, the team, and the overall success of the organization.

2) Consider Who You Coach

Not everyone is a good candidate for coaching. In order for coaching to be effective, the employee needs to be able to set the goals and desired outcomes. They need to be in a place where they are willing to determine their own objectives based on self-observation or desire. A new employee, for example, probably needs to spend the first six to 12 months in the role learning the job and understanding organizational dynamics. Those employees benefit from training, with a clearly defined purpose and schedule.

Additionally, an employee who is having serious performance issues may not be a good candidate for coaching. In that case, they may need a performance improvement plan with clear performance expectations initiated by you, the manager. Although some coaching can certainly occur in these scenarios, the primary focus would be outside of coaching. The true difference comes in who is setting and driving the desired outcome—you or the employee.

3) Decide What You Want to Accomplish Together

It’s important to set goals as a coach. But the employee needs to be the one to determine which goals are selected. A coach can assist and provide guidance, but their role is to focus on helping the employee select a goal that is clear, measurable, meaningful and realistic. Work with the employee to set the goals and then meet regularly to review progress toward completion. Build accountability into the process, but let the employee own it. Find ways to encourage and motivate the employee to move forward, while helping them stay accountable for the results.

4) Be a Guide, Not a "Know-it-all"

A coach’s job is to help an employee move through a process and make the best decisions for themselves. A coach is not there to solve the issues. Even if you think you know the "best" answer, a coach helps the employee come to their own conclusion instead of telling them. Ask questions. Be empathetic and encouraging. Provide clear feedback. As the employee works through their challenges, allow them to vent if necessary, but resist the urge to "save" them when it gets difficult. Coaches know how to stay detached from the task, but attached to the employee’s experience. When asked, you can provide guidance and suggestions, but the first thought should be helping the employee find the best way on his or her own. After all, most of us learn better through our own experiences.

5) Make It a "Way of Life" as a Manager

Once you get used to coaching on a regular basis, you’ll find that you can take that skill into all areas of your work—with peers, customers or your boss. It is important to have scheduled coaching sessions, but there is also value in having spur-of-the-moment coaching throughout your day. It might entail asking good questions, noticing areas of improvement and growth, or letting someone know how much you appreciate their perspective or contribution. The best coaching occurs through an ongoing open and caring relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

Coaching helps build bonds within your team and brings performance to a higher level. Coaches can influence the effectiveness of their teams that create ripple effects across the entire organization. Take a personal challenge and start coaching your team today. They’ll be the first to thank you for it!

Photo: Twenty20

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