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Successful Coaching of Colleagues and Subordinates

Question: I am the manager of a group of attorneys within the legal department in our company. Part of my job responsibilities on which I am evaluated is to be a coach to my people. I played a lot of sports growing up and always had coaches keeping me in line. That’s about my only experience with coaching. I’ve read some articles on coaching as a manager but they never really get down to the nitty-gritty of what I am supposed to do when I meet with people I manage to coach them. Are manager-coaches the same as sports coaches? And do I coach everyone the same way or are there different kinds of coaching strategies for different people and situations?

Answer: Today, most managers are expected to coach the people they supervise. The roles managers play as coaches vary greatly from organization to organization, but there are seven types of coaching that are commonly used by managers: Succession Coaching; Developmental Coaching; Career Coaching; Performance Coaching; On-boarding Coaching; Project Coaching; and Strategic Coaching. And to accomplish all of these types of coaching there are five basic strategies you can use as a coaching manager.

Seven Types of Coaching

1. Succession Coaching. As a succession coach you help people become aware of what it would take to move up to your job or other more senior roles and then help prepare them to take those roles.

2. Developmental Coaching. This is where you help the high-potential employee who is not having any particular performance problems to build their repertoire of knowledge and skills to be as good as they can be in their current position.

3. Career Coaching. You help people consider their career options, plan out their careers, and move their careers ahead.

4. Performance Coaching. The performance coach helps to address performance problems and to change employees’ behavior. You coach to help people adjust bad habits and parts of their styles to work more effectively in specific situations.

5. On-boarding or Assimilation Coaching. This is where you focus primarily on helping a key employee or leader in a new role to hit the ground running. The focus is to help the person quickly assimilate into the new position and/or organization and on the few most critical deliverables that need to be achieved in the first few months of the new assignment.

6. Project Coaching. You help others succeed at specific projects by focusing on how to address tough goals, difficult people, initiatives, or complex projects or situations.

7. Strategic Coaching. You help leaders and would-be leaders to think more strategically and develop strategic visions and plans. This type of coaching also helps the person to build alignment, commitment and integration across the organization to achieve the longer-term, bigger-picture objectives.

Five Coaching Strategies

Any manager may need to provide any or all of the seven types of coaching described above. But the menu of coaching strategies you need to succeed at all of them is the same.

The essence of providing good coaching as a manager is to help people know themselves, know the right thing to do and the right ways of doing it, and providing them with the opportunity to practice those things with feedback and reassurance.

Coaching is less about talking. It’s more about doing. By being a coaching manager you can help the people you coach to be more effective, more independent, and better prepared for future roles.

In the long run, the time you invest in coaching the people you manage can pay off with multiple dividends when the people you coach take what they learn from you and begin to serve as the future coaches of your organization.

The following is a short tour of the five basic coaching strategies.

1. Assessing the readiness of the person you want to coach is a critical first step. Some people are more coachable than others and have times where coaching would be helpful and others where it would not. Before you start investing your time in coaching someone, it’s worth evaluating the current potential ROI for your efforts.

Here are a few things to consider to predict someone’s current coachability. Is the person pretty self-aware, able to see himself objectively and knowing what he is doing and the impact it is having? Are they motivated to grow and change, demonstrate a real interest in their professional development and a commitment to take charge of it and invest their time to make it happen? Does the person show respect for and a willingness to take advice from you as his coach? Do they currently have the time and energy available to focus on the goals for the coaching?

2. Once you have identified an employee who is ready to be coached and worth the investment, the first thing you need to do in your coaching is to come to an informal agreement with the person on the goals of the coaching and what you and they will do as part of the coaching. You need to focus on a few key objectives for the coaching rather than trying to do too much.

What will you aim to accomplish overall? What kinds of skills will be developed or habits changed? What projects results will be completed differently that if the person was not coached? Over what time period will the coaching take place? And what will each of you do to ensure its success?

3. Once you have agreed on the purpose and actions associated with the coaching, you need to help the people you’re coaching gather data on what they are currently doing, what they know, what they think, and what they and the people they work with care about most regarding their work. You need to help them find out what they need to be doing differently and any gaps they may need to fill to increase their effectiveness.

As the coach, you can talk with others, observe your people working, conduct surveys of their key constituents, or review their work. By providing objective, data-based feedback in constructive ways you can really help them become more aware of what they are doing and what they could do to improve or be ready for future assignments.

4. Similar to the sports coach, beyond showing the people you coach what they are doing that works and doesn’t work, one of the greatest values you can provide is to teach and show your people what to do and how to do it. Be a role model. Demonstrate how to do work. Have them observe you and others who are experts.

Do work with them so they can slowly absorb your best practices and the best approaches of others who are successful. And give them detailed feedback as they try out new things or new approaches so they can hone their skills and shape good habits.

5. Almost everyone has times of insecurity and times when they are feeling low. One of the greatest gifts you can give those you coach is to remind them of their strengths, their unique qualities, their potential, and their ability to do great things. And when they are feeling low and need a boost, your genuine empathy, energy, optimism, and reassurance can do wonders.

Work performance is always affected by the way a person thinks, his assumptions, feelings, aspirations, or past experiences that get in the way of seeing things objectively and being open to being innovative and having constructive working relationships with others.

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