What is coaching?

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Are you a good coach? As a leader you are no doubt expected to be, but many leaders are confused about what being a “coach” really means. For most, being a manager is fairly straightforward—you assign work, give feedback, resolve conflicts, do performance reviews…all the administrative work that goes with a supervisory title. But to be a good leader, coaching is an essential component.
 
Here is a working definition:
 
Coaching is the day-to-day, hands-on process of helping direct reports recognize and act on opportunities to improve their performance and capabilities.
 
Below are some skills that are critical to become a good coach. As you read each section, think about the last meeting you had with one of your direct reports. Were you doing more telling and directing, or were you actually listening and looking for opportunities to coach your employee?
 
Most leaders tend to do more telling. If you really want to improve your coaching skills, and get better results from each person on your team, I recommend a combination of watching, asking, listening, and telling. It’s more than just telling people what to do and how to do it—coaching is more give and take; more about helping them self-discover a better way to achieve results.
 
Score yourself on a scale of 1-5. Then ask your manager and direct reports to score your skills. Once you identify your own gaps, you can develop an action plan that will increase your coaching skills.
 
Observational skills
The coach should be able to spot opportunities and relay them to the direct report as soon as possible. This means spending enough time with directs to see them in action and then being able isolate an area for growth. Think of an athletic coach who is watching players’ performance from the sidelines.
 
Analytical skills to uncover motives and identify the gaps.
Determining the cause of the performance gap is the most important aspect of coaching.  What behavior changes could close the gap? Think of an athletic coach who partners with the player to watch the tape of the game, to identify specific improvement areas that will help the player/team win the next game.
 
Interviewing and listening skills.
Coaches can’t assume they understand the intentions and the goals of their direct reports. Athletic coaches get inside the heads of their players to figure out what drives them.
 
Coaches need to ask:
 
  • Open-ended questions to create insight or reach conclusions
  • Closed questions to guide a discussion into a specific topic to garner specific information when a discussion is too general.
  • Reflective questions to restate, in question form, what the person said to prevent misunderstanding.
  • Balcony questions to help you both analyze a situation objectively from an objective vantage point.
Feedback skills help the person look in the mirror.
Giving specific, honest feedback requires courage.   
 
There are three main types:
 
  • Reinforcing Feedback-- when you recognize improvement, or want to build on a strength. This is often overlooked but one of the most important coaching tools.
  • Developmental Feedback-- helps the person expand capabilities
  • Performance Adjusting Feedback—for when the relationships or the results are at risk.  Giving feedback in a way that creates open dialogue is critical for a coach.
Coaching is a satisfying and rewarding—the better you become, the better your employees will perform. Not a bad outcome to shoot for in 2011.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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