Many business leaders recognize the tangible benefits of coaching. A recent meta-analysis of coaching research revealed that it improved performance, team functioning, engagement, retention and attitudes. And Sales Management Association’s research linked formal sales coaching to 16.7% faster revenue growth and higher win rates.
But as leaders are recognizing the value of coaching, they’re also recognizing that their managers have little training in the skill. More and more companies are providing classes or videos, but not every business can afford formal instruction. And even for those that do, managers still need support as they learn how to use the techniques they’ve been shown.
Regardless of your training situation, you can help your managers improve their coaching skills or even help individual contributors learn to coach each other. You can find good coaching systems, such as the GROW model on line and then use work activities to practice specific skills.
Practice active listening during meetings.
One key capability for coaching is active listening, paying close attention to what another is saying as well as picking up on non-verbal cues to read meaning “between the lines.”
A recent article in Inside Higher Ed, reports that University professors who were helping each other improve their coaching skills spent time observing their peers in a classroom. They found that “actually learning how to see and listen to what was happening in the classroom was a crucial skill that the participants gained and found important.”
Ask your managers to practice active listening during meetings by paying close attention to what others are saying and trying to understand the emotional subtext of the discussion. After the meeting, they can reflect on what they heard by writing in a journal or reviewing it with you. These practice sessions help them get used to observing closely and objectively, which will make them more effective in one-to-one coaching meetings.
Practice asking open questions.
Another key coaching skill is asking open questions that help coachees think creatively and come to their own conclusions. Open questions cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no,” and they usually start with “what,” “how,” “why,” or “when.” If you’re not used to asking open questions, it can be hard to do naturally.
You can ask managers to practice this skill during meetings as well, by trying to ask only open questions during the meeting. Or you can practice together in your regular one-to-one meeting.
Peers can help each other as well. One can discuss a recent challenging situation and the other can practice asking open questions to enrich the discussion and open the door to new ideas.
Managers may want to write down open questions they find particularly useful. They can review the list before a coaching session to keep them top of mind.
Practice goal setting.
As coaches, managers need to help employees create goals and make progress toward them, so good goal setting will be important. Many coaches use SMART goals to help coachees create targets they can achieve. SMART goals are specific, measurable, actionable or achievable, realistic or relevant, and time- bound.
Coaches have to practice recognizing poorly formulated goals, such as “I want be on time more” and changing them into more appropriate objectives, such as “I will set my watch alarm for five minutes before each of my three meetings this week and stop work as soon as my alarm goes off so I can get to the meeting room on time.”
People can practice goal setting with their own goals, or they can work with peers to help each other set goals. You can also work with direct reports to help them recognize and formulate effective targets.
One of the best ways to practice coaching is to just dive in and do it. You can select an employee who’s willing to be a pilot test subject or work with peers who are also trying to improve their coaching. If managers practice by coaching each other, they can work on specific skills outside of the complicating factor of manager/employee relationship.
In a pilot situation, managers are doing actual coaching, but you may sit in on a session with the coachee’s permission. Or the coachee might provide feedback after the session on how well the coach listened, stayed objective, and provided guidance but not directives.
Coaches should set goals for these pilot meetings to focus on specific skills, reflect after the meetings on how well they went and review their progress with you or a peer.
Focus on mindset.
Not everyone can take a formal coaching class or get help from an experienced coach as they learn how to do it. But the most important element of coaching is the mindset of one trusted and experienced person helping another.
If your managers truly care about their employees’ personal development and if they can adopt the mindset of objective guides, they’ll gradually master good coaching techniques, and your business will enjoy the benefits of a supportive learning culture.
At Pract.us, we’re dedicated to helping your team work on key skills as they complete work tasks. Learn more.