Coaching is a new phenomenon by definition. In fact, coaching has been around for centuries, though perhaps known by other names. Anyone can be a coach – a parent, teacher, manager, co-worker, friend, or sibling. In the business community, coaches often help employees to achieve their potential, and grow in their career, expand their skills, and ideally strike more of a balance between work and personal life.
It is not always easy to inspire a person or a team to get optimum results. It takes a commitment on the part of the coach, the company and the person or team entering into the coaching relationship. In order to achieve optimum results all concerned parties must be willing to change the environment and the business policies. Having said that, let us look at some simple, but powerful techniques and considerations used by business coaches.
A good coach leaves nothing to chance, beginning with the commitment of the client. Use the initial interview to get the client to commit and to establish trust. If there are hidden issues, neither the coach nor the client will succeed. The client must be willing to learn, grow, and take the action required in order to succeed. Good coaches do not move forward without a commitment from all parties, including the client’s manager.
The first task is to establish goals. The coach works with the client to create realistic, achievable objectives, in line with the client’s personal values and professional goals. Remember, great coaches do not set goals THEY would like to set, but rather, they listen to the client and help them frame the goals the client wants to achieve, with an eye on what is realistic and what will provide the best results. A good coach strives for balance between work and family life. The coach will look for ways to find and use time more efficiently and may help the client establish more efficient processes, so that he can have more time to enjoy his personal life, and still achieve his career goals.
The best coaches have learned how to actively listen and test for understanding to be sure the client really means what the coach thinks he means. They are invested in the relationship and they truly care whether their client achieves his goals, but they are also able to remain objective and not be biased or self-involved when it comes to the client’s direction or results. They will talk about options and clarify trade-offs, but always without an attempt to sway the client to their own personal choice.
A great coach will not be content to achieve the bare minimum or the average. She will always push her client to do the best and be the best he can be. She will encourage him to reach beyond where he might initially think he can go and to establish realistic plans to get him there!
To get the best results, the coach will work with the client to set specific schedules so that milestones and goals are achieved and not left to chance. The coach will make recommendations and suggestions and allow the client make the choice. However, a good coach is not afraid to push the client if he feels the client is dragging his feet. A gentle but firm reminder of the client’s commitment can be very helpful at such times.
Great coaches are frank! They do not beat around the bush. If there is a problem, they say so! However, their tone and demeanor is not confrontational. It is open and honest. Moreover, the coach is always supportive, even when the client may not be telling the whole story. Trust is a key component in this relationship.
Using the goals the coach and client have agreed upon, the coach will help the client establish priorities for each goal, and identify where the gaps exist between ‘current state’ and ‘desired state’. Together, they will then set forth a plan and schedule to achieve these goals. He will ask his client to experiment and try things he has not tried before. If the client is willing to make that leap of faith, in many cases, they will grow and achieve goals beyond what they had established in that initial session.
A great coach will always give homework. Written assignments or documented feedback on what is going on, to track progress and to keep the client on target. Every week the client will decide on milestones and actions and the coach will expect the client to be accountable for those in the next meeting. She will also ask the client to come prepared to each coaching session. To get the most out of a meeting and avoid a ‘bull session’, the client should make a list of what he wants to achieve during that session and what he needs to discuss with the coach. Remember, this is the CLIENT’S nickel! His needs must come first, or the relationship will fail.
Finally, the best coaches, establish policies and protocol upfront. Schedules for meetings, how far in advance these meetings may be cancelled, how the coach and the client will communicate between meetings, and what forms they will use to document the coaching project – and, of utmost importance – the confidentiality and sanctity of the relationship. Clients must feel their privacy will not be threatened or they will not talk openly about their problems. Any reporting required of the coach to a manager or company official should be a summary of the progress and not a word-for-word report of the discussion between the coach and the client.
If you follow these principles as a coach or client, you will get more out of the coaching relationship.