An increasing number of executives, managers, and others interested in career growth and development turn to a business coach for a personally tailored development process. How often would you have found it useful to have the chance to talk through some key ideas with an impartial and objective person, perhaps in preparation for important meetings or before embarking on a significant change?
The business coach concept
The concept has been borrowed from the sports arena where top athletes and sports people employ coaches as part of their performance enhancing programme. Business people are gradually recognising that they can achieve corresponding benefits from employing a business coach.
Coaching is suited to those who like to be proactive, practical and progressive, yet who value the opportunity for stimulating and challenging reflection. The executive or manager is considered to be the expert in his field so that, through this type of approach, the coach will enable the executive to find the way forward that is right for him. Coaching is forward looking with a well-structured yet flexible approach that assumes commitment and purpose.
Efficient, effective and productive
As a means of professional support, coaching is unrivalled for the combination of individual attention, objectiveness and challenge that it provides. In addition, the skills of the coach mean that it is highly effective because:
- It keeps you focused on specific goals
- It stimulates you to come up with your own solutions
- It holds you accountable for your progress
- It removes the blockages to progress
- It backs you through changes
- It prioritises values
- It challenges you to take the actions to move forward
“Training alone could increase productivity by 22% – but, when training was combined with coaching, the productivity increase was a massive 88%.” (Olivero et al. 1997)
What does business coaching entail?
Coaching is different from training especially in the delivery system. The coach works with the manager to tailor the training program in skill areas where impact is necessary. The coach helps managers make behavioural changes needed for growth. The importance is that the coach and manager need to be clear on the competencies that have impact on the bottom line. Competencies need to be measured before and after coaching in order to evaluate effectiveness.
An internal HR person
It is likely that the HR person is the change agent within his organisation. He also has the opportunity to provide the leadership needed, and to become a part of the coaching venture, rather than an obstacle to progress;
Or an external consultant working with the link-pin in the organisation – the HR professional:
Usually, an initial meeting with the coach will help to identify the broad requirements so that a specific programme can be designed for the particular circumstances.
Coaching may sometimes be extended to include groups of employees as well as individuals.
In coaching, the coach does not bring the answer, but brings over a system or a process for helping the client discover the answers.
Following are some guidelines to understand better the role of the Coach:
Acceptance needed as a coach
At the start, the effective coach defines the confines of the relationship with each manager/executive. Is the coach a trusted advisor and friend? Does he/she listen and provide feedback? Or, does he/she help the manager obtain 360 degree feedback and develop action plans to increase his/her capability as a performer? The agreement the HR professional develops with each manager can be different. The role must be agreed upon by both parties if it has to work.
Most importantly, the coach pushes the window with each manager to assist him/her to grow professionally to promote the success of the organisation and of the individual. An ideal way to do it is to set the situation up so the person asks for help, rather than the coach forcing the help upon the person.
A coach is a support to the employee
The coach is a resource and does not control the relationship or the actions and decisions of the person he/she is coaching. At best, the coach forms a partnership with the coached manager that results in good choices for the organisation and personal growth for the manager. The manager, however, makes the final decision about what he/she will do in any given situation.
Your knowledge, your effectiveness as a communicator, your developed relationship with the manager, and your perceived competence will impact a manager’s willingness to use your input.
Input or guidance, is usually sought by the manager or executive being coached when uncertain about how a particular situation was handled. Assistance can also be sought prior to handling a difficult or tentative situation. More recently, managers seek targeted assistance with their own growth as managers. This means that many times a coach receives the most difficult and delicate questions.
It may be worth distinguishing when the manager is seeking reassurance and confirmation and may already know the answer to the question he/she is asking and when not. A coach can enhance the executive’s capabilities and self-esteem if he/she is asked what he/she thinks, especially when his/her answer is confirmed that it is correct.
When a coach does not know the correct answer or is speculating about the right course of action, the truth is the preferred path. It is far better to say you don’t know, that you will check and find out, than to appear to have all the answers, and give bad advice.
The coach assists the manager develop his/her own solutions
People generally know what they should do or how they should act. Often the coach’s job is to draw the answer out of the individual. If you give the person the answer, the manager is less likely to “own” and fully enrol in the solution or answer. For example, when asking a person the following: “Let’s explore the possibilities. What is it that you really want?”, the candidate is more likely to own the situation and the result will be stronger and richer.
A coach can also provide options and recommend resources, and can give opinions. Questions can be answered, but ultimately, the answer must be the manager’s. (How do you think the situation should be handled? What have you considered doing? What do you think you need to do to move to the next level?)
A coach has to have sharpened communication skills
Listening is a vital skill the coach has to possess in order to understand the specific needs of the manager who is seeking assistance. A weakness in a coach is when he/she automatically assumes that this question or this situation is like another one encountered before. The customer needs the coach’s full attention and taking in information will lead to insightful, personalised responses to the manager’s questions. Listening also involves being attentive to what the customer is saying through his/her facial expression, body language, and movements. The tone of voice and any expressions of emotion are also important. Open-ended questions are needed to draw out the manager, such as, “tell me what you are considering doing.” Questions that appear to seek out motives such as, “why did you do that?” will shut discussion down.
The coach is an educator
As an HR professional or external coach, you educate managers and supervisors as you work with them as a supportive partner. The goal is to make the candidate self-sufficient. The role of the coach is to give them the tools they need to be successful in their business-related and interpersonal functions. The coach assists by supplying a process they can follow to build their skills. A manager should leave an HR professional/coach feeling stronger, more knowledgeable, and more capable of addressing the opportunities in the future.
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