Leaders who use Coaching Techniques Accomplish Greater Results!

Why use Coaching techniques?
Businesses that are seeking to attain or maintain their competitive advantage over their rivals are recognizing that one of the key factors to success is the relationship managers have with their staff.  This is a constant factor whether it is related to front-line managers, middle managers or top level mangers.  The Gallup organization conducted a large research project and discovered that the most significant factor contributing to high employee retention rates, healthy customer satisfaction levels, increased bottom line results and productivity levels were the direct relationships managers had with their staff.

It is worth the effort
One of the most significant skills therefore for managers is to learn how to better engage with their staff.  Studies show that the use of quality coaching techniques in working with staff can empower them to their potential in their place of work. Research has shown that managers in general believe that the use of coaching techniques as a part of their leadership style would bring greater work place benefits.  Furthermore, managers who had been trained in coaching techniques and persisted at utilizing them over a six month period, noted that they were worth the effort to learn and implement.

Different modes of Coaching by Managers
When implementing coaching techniques within the workplace, there are two typical modes of operation used.  There is the formal and the informal.  The informal is also known as corridor coaching, where the manager uses short targeted conversations with their staff to collaboratively problem-solve and engage the employee to a greater level in their work.   A mind-shift needs to occur here on the part of the manager believing that much of the needed resources to address workplace issues can be drawn out of the employee/s.  With the increased skills of being able to ask the right open-ended questions, the employee is drawn into a constructive conversation which enables them to meet workplace challenges. Once the employee has reached the end of their resources on a particular issue and it is insufficient to address the situation, exploration to where and what resources will be mustered is conducted with the manager offering their full support.

A formal approach can be used with a monthly or fortnightly scheduled meeting.  The frequency of meeting depends on a number of variables.  For example a newly appointed employee may need a significant amount of support in the initial stages and then lessening the frequency of sessions as they increase their competency levels.  Other reasons to consider frequency of coaching sessions are the level of difficulty of the role they are in; the level of influence their role has to impact the organization; and the type of change being sought in the coaching.  The more managers learn to utilize coaching in formal ways, the more they will intuitively understand the frequency of coaching sessions needed.

Areas of focus in workplace coaching
Remedial:
In general terms there are three types of foci sought in a typical workplace coaching relationship. There is remedial, developmental and transitional.  Remedial is where problems existing in the employee are looking to be remedied for greater results.  This can often entail the most difficult areas of coaching and a professional coach may be better to handle it.  However often a professional coach will be reluctant to take on such a case, because these are often last ditch efforts with the minds of many in the organization already made up before the coach is called.  There would need to be a genuine desire to see the person aided in remedying their issues and for them to want to change.  This type of coaching has a focus on behavioral change and professional coaching has shown that it is highly likely to succeed if there are a number of conditions met before initiating such an intervention.

Developmental:
This area of workplace coaching seeks to increase employee’s competency levels.  There are generally two areas of focus within developmental coaching.  There is hard skills and soft skills.  Hard skills encompass the technical skills required by an organization in delivering the required products or services.   Soft skills are more behavioral in nature, where the employee has increased self-awareness and awareness of others, so they are able to respond in the right manner to be a team player and improve there interpersonal capacity.

Technical skills coaching is utilized to increase competency levels, so that the technical capacity of the organization is at a high standard.  Much of this type of coaching boarders into mentoring where the more experienced technician passes on the wisdom they have gained through being involved in the same type of technical activities, often for many years.  Hard skills coaching tends to be more instructional and is concerned with passing on much needed knowledge and seeing that the knowledge is easily sourced by the employee so they can draw upon it when needed.  This type of coaching contains a significant amount of reviewing.  The manager, sits down with the employee after implementing new knowledge in a particular setting and asks, “How did you think it went?” “What did you do well?”  “What needs tweaking?” “What would you do differently next time, and why?”

Soft skills coaching is invaluable to creating effective leaders, teams, reducing unnecessary conflict, improving lines of communication, better feedback responses, and creating an overall climate that is positive.  Generally this type of coaching is reserved more for leaders as their soft skills do exert a significant amount of impact upon organizational outcomes. Soft skills relate substantially to the emotional life of the employee, for behaviors are strongly influenced by emotional reactions.  All of us have our triggers that set us off in certain circumstances, hence if we can discover what pushes our buttons and reprogram our responses to them our behaviors can change significantly.  I have a number of assessment tools that can be taken online to aid leaders in getting crystal clear about what their soft-skill levels are in a number of different areas (Online assessments).  These types of assessments can be completed as a self-report, or for stronger clarity, if a number of work colleagues can complete the online assessment, themes will emerge.  Once these are discovered then an action-plan can be developed to improve these soft-skills.

Transitional:
This area of coaching is looking to support an employee who is taking on a new role within the organization and needs to adjust to new challenges.  It is easy to misunderstand the nature of transition because changes are made and roles are changed and it is then out of sight and out of mind.  But when change occurs people adapt to those changes at different rates.  Some take different amounts of time to emotionally catch up with the external changes taking place.  Furthermore, role transitions inherently carry with them adjustments in skills, relationships, communication processes, responsibility levels and increased stress levels.  A manager who has ever been through such change, can be a valuable ally for an employee going through a similar journey.

Conclusion
There is no doubt that leaders competently using coaching techniques with their staff will see powerful results.  The challenge is to first get the training and then to stick with using the techniques over at least a six month period until it becomes a part of your leadership style.  Ironically, the best way to achieve sticking to a quality coaching process for six months is through being coached.  I have had the privilege of doing just that with many leaders and have seen great success through it.  Research shows that once a leader sticks with the process for at least six months they won’t go back and they won’t regret the effort. If you were to make this choice then you will become a much more versatile leader, enabling you to lead others through a varied amount of different experiences, retaining more employees, increasing productivity, increasing bottom-line results and seeing greater customer satisfaction.

Executive Coach: David Allan (BSc, MBus.)