We're starting to hear the word "coaching" come up more and more often in talent management. In fact, more leaders are catching on to the value of coaching employees through the various challenges they face. This new management style enables leaders to connect more closely with employees while maintaining a strong management strategy for their team. According to 2017 International Coaching Federation research, “organizations with strong coaching cultures indicate revenues above that of their industry peer group (46% compared to 39% of other responding organizations) and report higher employee engagement (61% and 53%, respectively).” The most notable areas of improvement in the workplace included communication, well-being, productivity, and business management. With so many benefits of introducing a coaching element to your culture, how do you get started?
How is coaching different from mentoring?
Most think of coaching and mentoring as the same thing, and while they involve a commitment on behalf of both parties (manager and employee), the methods used vary. In mentoring, less seasoned employees seek out a more experienced employee or manager to offer them advice, guidance, and support when they face difficult situations or need training. Often these relationships have a long-term component to them, some spanning the length of a mentee's career. In coaching, a lead employee or manager makes the effort to connect with employees on an individual and consistent basis but with shorter-term goals. Coaching often tends to be a more formal or structured process whereas mentoring styles can vary depending on the relationship established between the mentor and mentee.
Coaching itself does not serve to solve the problems of employees, but rather to help them become empowered and capable of coming up with their own solutions. Employees can focus on areas where they feel they are the weakest and are held accountable by their coach to follow through on any recommended tasks. Employees “own” problems, not the manager. Coaching can also take on a new dimension when there are groups of individuals being coached at once. Group coaching can take the form of masterminds, career direction, or professional development. Again, employees must take ownership of this process to get the most benefit from it.
Why is coaching becoming more important?
Shelley Frost who writes for Chron, advises that coaching and mentoring have very important roles in developing workers, especially younger ones who have less experience to draw from. In order to prepare your newest employees for the future of work, which is expected to include rapid innovation and increased use of technology, there needs to be a strong foundation of skills that support long-term success. And even better, employees will see that kind of culture as one of the perks at working for an organization that will trickle out to your employer brand as well.
A Gallup poll indicated that management feedback is not enough when it comes to creating a strong workforce. Younger workers need to be focused on what’s to come, not what they’ve done wrong. Coaching is a much more positive way to ensure employees are getting what they need to become productive and engaged in their jobs.
Coaching has many benefits for both leaders and subordinates, including:
- Strategic goal setting to ensure that each employee stays on a clear career track
- Hands-on training to learn the tasks of the job and become proficient while being supported
- Being a resource for younger employees who need guidance on developing work skills
- Personalized training and time to help overcome any obstacles in performing work
- Increased empowerment and sense of independence which promotes morale
- Coaches and mentors feel accomplished because they’ve proven themselves
In order for this relationship between coaches and employees to become successful, a company must embrace this format of leading by growing a culture of coaching.
Tips for cultivating a coaching culture in the workplace
There are many ways to promote a coaching culture. Generally, it’s the responsibility of employers to implement coaching principles as part of management career development. However, any manager can begin to learn how to coach people through tough spots. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started:
Tip #1 - Start with Upper Management
If there is any hope of changing the culture of the organization, executive leadership must see the value in coaching and start implementing these changes. Bill Bennett, CEO of InsideOut Development writes for HR Daily Advisor, “As senior leadership takes the reins, employees will naturally follow.” He shares that coaching can become part of every communication in the organization, from water cooler chats to formal meetings.
Tip #2 - Ask employees the right questions
Instead of telling people what to do and how to do it, get in the habit of asking employees what they need to become productive team members. Use open-ended questions like, “How can I support you?” or, “What can you do differently next time?” as a way to get employees thinking about solving things on their own terms.
Tip #3 - Provide on-demand coaching modules
Make it a priority to not only conduct regular coaching sessions with employees but also create a series of training modules around coaching topics. This can be a great way to reach more employees and train new managers on the conversation style that coaching includes. As an added benefit, you can provide this training "on-demand" using a cloud-based training platform.
Tip #4 - Make managers accountable for employee performance
In the modern business world, a coaching culture includes accountability for employees and their performance -- as it relates to management effectiveness. Evaluate the performance of teams based on managers’ abilities to coach them past obstacles and become better at their jobs. Have regular performance reviews of managers to make sure they feel adequately supported too.
Coaching isn't going anywhere
Employees, particularly in the younger generations, are growing more vocal in their cries for coaching and professional development. The future of work is racing towards us and everyone wants to be armed with the best skill set they can cultivate before it hits. Training managers in coaching skills and ensuring senior leaders are on board with your program are key to growing a strong culture of support. And it's a good goal to have for the entire organization. Every employee at every level of their career can benefit from new skills, new ways of innovating, or new ideas that coaching brings to life. And when you create a culture of learners who want to test out their new skills, business performance increases and even the bottom-line benefits. While setting up a program might take some upfront efforts, leadership development and employee support are never a waste. If nothing else, it will make your employees feel appreciated, seen, and engaged. So next time you're thinking about the traditional old-school management practices that have worked for decades, consider shifting them a little to frame learning and improvement in a positive light that makes your staff eager to tackle new challenges.