Coaching and Mentoring
Business Coaching Training
Although many companies now routinely ask their managers to engage in employee coaching, many of them fail to do very well in practice. This is largely because coaching is a relatively complex and subtle set of skills that need to be developed over time (both in theory and in practice). Focused and appropriate business coaching training is therefore a very necessary pre-cursor to getting any leader to coach employees more frequently or on a more professional basis.
Although there are many business coaching training programs that are available in the market, these are usually aimed at people who want to become external coaches. And where, on occasions, these training courses are available to internal business coaches, they may not spend enough time on the “softer-side” skills that are necessary in order to be successful. For this reason, it is important for every individual enterprise to tailor their business coaching training to the needs of their leaders and to ensure that it covers the core skills that are likely to be most critical.
What are the core skills that are necessary in any business coaching training course?
Although the following list is by no means set in stone, the following eight coaching competency clusters are some general behaviors and/or approaches that an internal coach should be able to draw upon:
1. The ability to build strong relationships and build trust.
This includes clearly communicating expectations for individuals at the earliest stages in a coaching relationship and treating each individual as a unique situation, and adjusting a coaching style accordingly. It also involves listening well, building empathy, relating real life experiences and stories and just being “available” when needed.
2. The ability to frame the coaching process
This includes seeing coaching as a two-way process or a give-and-take dialogue and a chance to share ideas and information. A coach also needs to see coaching to be best delivered in situationally relevant ways. Good coaches therefore consider the difficulty of the task being coached, the skills and experience of the person they are coaching and their preferences in terms of how much ‘help’ should be given.
3. The ability to set goals and targets
This includes the ability to work with an individual to set meaningful goals and targets. This means finding a balance between goals that are too easy to reach and goals which are too stretching. Targets are therefore often at somewhere between one third and one half greater than a person says they can do over a period of time but this is always a two-way discussion and unique to the person concerned.
4. The ability to identify and analyze areas for coaching
This includes the ability to offer several different kinds of feedback – what people should keep doing (positive feedback) potentially stop doing or lessen (which can be more negative feedback) and start doing (new ideas feedback). Once again, this is a two-way discussion and a coach should be able to adapt his or her managerial/coaching style to the individual and diagnose what style is likely to work best in the circumstances.
5. The ability to conduct effective coaching conversations
This includes the ability to gently ask the individual being coached for ideas and suggestions with the capacity to listen actively and attentively. It also involves the ability to encourage individuals to think back on their experiences and discuss lessons learned and then debate the implications of the experience for future behavior or action.
6. The ability to deal with resistance, or defensiveness
This includes the ability to listen to an individual talk about difficulties that he or she may perceive in making future changes but steering him or her to consider other options where necessary. This may mean carefully pointing out behaviors which are overly defensive so that individuals can start to entertain the idea of doing something differently.
7. The ability to give (and receive) feedback
This includes the ability to describe why a particular skill/behavior (etc.) is important for future performance and readily outline the steps/expectations/objectives/outcomes that are likely to exist. It also means engaging in straight talk with the person being coached and even observing the individual doing something (in an ineffective manner), and asking him or her to analyze the situation for themselves, and then reflecting back. Providing encouragement and support along the way is also critical.
8. The ability to conclude coaching conversations positively
This includes the ability to summarize all conversations in pithy and helpful ways (especially at the end) and then follow up with individuals so that all sessions build on the last and are as action oriented as possible.
This is by no means an exhaustive or complete set of coaching behaviors and/or approaches to be covered, but any business coaching training that includes most of these clusters is likely to help internal coaches to be much more successful in their coaching efforts.