Employee Coaching 101: Everything You Need to Know

Managing and coaching employees along their career paths isn’t what it used to be. Today, setting a trusting foundation and providing constant feedback seems to be the winning formula for success. Read on.

When basketball players need to reverse a game gone bad, they turn to their coach. When e-sports athletes prepare for a big match, they turn to their coach. When startup founders need to upgrade their business plan, they turn to their coach or mentor.

But what about your employees  – do they have a coach to turn to when their performance hits a wall?

If you are yet to coach your team members, you’re missing out on a lot of competitive advantages. Read this guide and learn what you need to know about turning average employees into office superstars through coaching.

Advantages of Workplace Coaching

Boosts Performance – Coaching in the workplace is directly tied to employee performance, according to 21 percent of HR professionals participating in the Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey. Meanwhile, about 45 percent of the survey respondents believe coaching is “very important.”

Increases Team Productivity and Workplace Satisfaction – A report from The Coaching Conundrum 2016 survey reported that managers who coach increase their team’s productivity while boosting the satisfaction and performance of two out of three employees.

Mentorship Programs are Important to Retaining Top Talent
When it comes to understanding how mentoring operates – let alone how it could be harnessed to develop and retain talented people – most executives have little grounding in data or experience beyond their own. A just-released report by Heidrick & Struggles sheds new light on the topic.

Improves Learning at Work – Today’s professionals don’t want to stay in the same position with the same responsibilities for the entirety of their careers. Coaching can give employees the learning and skills upgrade they need according to a study by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

Creates Better Employees – Researchers from universities in the U.K. released 17 rigorous studies about workplace coaching in 2015. The result of the meta-analysis found that coaching has a moderately positive effect on overall skill, while improving mood and motivation, and it delivers a significant performance boost.

Worth All the Trouble – One of the reasons why only a handful of companies and managers adopt workplace coaching is that it’s tough. But according to a 2012 study by the University of Wollongong managers who faced difficulties deploying a coaching program were very positive about the benefits. It’s worth it for them personally, for the team members who received coaching, and for the entire organization.

Managing vs. Coaching

You’ve already seen the business perks brought by workplace coaching, and maybe you’re excited to roll out a program for your company. Or, perhaps you’re wondering: “Isn’t coaching the same as managing?” Short answer: no.

Sure, coaching and managing have overlaps. Both strategies also have the same goal of improving team members’ performance, creating a well-oiled machine. But there’s a stark contrast.

Let’s take a look at the difference between managers and coaches.

Managers have expert knowledge, allowing them to address specific issues right away. Their technical know-how lets them instruct people on what to do in certain situations and how exactly to carry out the job. Managers shine best when: Dealing with a crisis; guiding a team or employee through highly technical tasks; teaching a new hire; and/or teaching someone who lacks the confidence or skill to perform a given task.

Team members under the watch of an excellent manager are not only good at following directions. They also hit short-term goals with relative ease, so long as they can turn to their managers for direction.

Coaches, on the other hand, may also have the technical expertise of a manager. But they are better known for their listening, understanding, and people skills. Rather than instruct direct reports down to a tee, coaches help people find their way and focus on long-term goals. Coaches shine the best when: Handling daily operations; improving the performance of already skilled professionals; and/or dealing with tasks that call for creativity rather than raw technical skills.

A team backed by an awesome coach can think outside of the box and better understand their role in the entire organization. With the coach fostering every team member’s confidence, the team can also plan for long-term improvements without being directed.

Simply put, managers have a short-term focus and are valued for their technical expertise. Coaches, meanwhile, focus on long-term goals and guiding employees to become a better version of themselves. You need both to build a successful organization. Chances are, however, leaders in your company do splendid work at managing employees but not coaching.

The Myth and Reality of Cultural Fit
Within HR and recruitment, we’ve been using the term “cultural fit” – generally defined as the ability of an employee to fit with the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that make up an organization – for a decade or two. Hiring for fit is more of a myth than a reality, argues this HR and executive recruiting expert. 

Coaching Foundations

But even the best coaching initiatives will fail if people in the workplace don’t trust each other. You want team members to feel at ease when discussing their issues and challenges at work. As a coach, know that the problems people may share with you can involve things outside of the office.

To build trust, you want to eliminate distractions in your coaching environment so you can give 100 percent of your attention to the person or people being coached. Also, you can’t get people to open up by showing you have the power and influence to affect their pay grade and standing in the company. So drop the language and nonverbal cues that reinforce your superiority.

You’ll also want to conduct performance reviews regularly. With coaching, you don’t have to wait for an annual performance review to share feedback. You can meet with employees once or twice a month or even every week.

After giving your feedback, end the discussion with an action plan. If the feedback is positive, be sure to thank the employee and emphasize that maintaining (or even leveling up) their actions helps the entire organization. For negative feedback, help the employee establish a plan and a goal to do better next time around. And don’t forget to schedule for a follow-up session so you can check on their progress.

Set an Example

You’re the leader, and a strong coaching culture is the destination. If you want your organization to arrive, you must show everyone how to get there.

You may be the coach, but you should also receive feedback as well as you give it. Instead of getting defensive, listen when employees voice out their concerns and criticisms. Don’t direct blame to others, but bask in the feedback and search for valuable takeaways.

Show the behavior you want your people to exhibit during coaching, and you can bet they will notice and follow suit.

Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor

Contributed by Nathan Sharpe, the entrepreneur behind Biznas, a blog where he serves practical business advice and tips to readers.

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