It doesn’t really matter what stage of life we are in or what station we hold in an organization—we all have to change, evolve, and transform in order to contribute and make a difference over the long run. This means we need to be coached and be willing to coach. No one is perfect, of course, and we all have blind spots that are rarely illuminated unless a supportive coach steps up, points out opportunities for development, and lights the way forward. This applies to senior executives, newer members of the organization, and everyone in between. The coaching we receive could be related to something as straightforward as developing a skill to perform a new job or as simple as making subtle changes in our behavior or attitude.
The benefits of building a coaching culture are significant, but many people don’t like to be coached because they feel self-sufficient or believe they can grow and learn on their own. Some people feel awkward, inadequate, or embarrassed that as an adult or seasoned professional they are still learning and needing to make adjustments in their behavior, skills, attitude, or mindset. The truth is, we all need coaching. We shouldn’t feel bad about that fundamental need. Coaching is a positive mechanism to help us reach our full potential. Stronger ties are created when we are open and willing to be coached by people in the organization, not just a formal leader. It helps us think more effectively, exchange ideas, and ultimately create a competitive edge with highly skilled and capable talent.
Unfortunately, coaching is often mishandled, avoided, and seen as an uncomfortable task. People don’t feel a responsibility to coach or shun this important function for a variety of reasons. One of the most significant reasons is people lack the fundamental skills to be an effective coach. Another is the fear of offending or hurting the feelings of others. When it comes to coaching, there are also some natural fears about the risk. What might happen if someone takes offense to our coaching and a conflict ensues? But it’s important to remember that most people are trying to do their best work so coaching is usually not about negative motives or intentions. More often it is about elevating a skill, overcoming a weakness, developing more confidence, or moving forward with a challenging decision or task. Whether we are being coached or are coaching someone else, sharing the perspective, insight, and knowledge of another person can be invaluable. We need to put fear, awkwardness, and other feelings aside and be open to both being coached and being a coach who focuses on helpful coaching topics. Let’s take a closer look at three types of coaching we can seek out for ourselves and provide to others to create a powerful, multi-directional coaching environment and increase performance.
The first type of coaching is Alignment coaching. Alignment coaching is sharing insights, feedback, and suggestions when it comes to keeping up with changes in the organization’s priorities, strategy, and direction. For the organization to be positioned for short- and long-term success, people need to be flexible and agile in terms of their skills, mindset, behaviors, and actions. If we continue to do what we have always done, then we can only expect to get the same results or even decline over time. People must change and grow for the organization to be competitive and effective, so there is nothing personal about this type of coaching. It is based on the idea that if we are not growing and changing, we are dying.
The second type of coaching is Improvement coaching. This type of coaching is focused on improving capabilities, skills, and knowledge. When we know more about our performance, we are better able to close gaps in our performance. We will inevitably make mistakes, miscalculate, or even forget. As professionals in a fast-paced global economy, we need to be open to colleagues, leaders, peers, and direct reports who can teach us newer or better ways of performing our work.
The third type of coaching is Reinforcement. As some people say, we soar or excel at work because of our strengths, but while we may be aware of our gifts, talents, and skills that drive our success, it is enormously helpful when we are acknowledged for what we do well. When people are acknowledged for their work efforts or when they go above and beyond the call of duty, it can be highly motivational and help ensure they continue to do their best work. I like the notion: “Always Celebrate Better.” If you want to see a behavior repeated or skill embedded, you need to reinforce the behavior through coaching and helping people know they are doing good things.
To be a top tier organization, you need to establish a coaching culture where everyone is willing to receive and share coaching on opportunities for alignment, improvement, and reinforcement. As people tap into each other’s knowledge, skills, and experience it leads to enterprise thinking. So be mindful of your strengths and opportunities for improvement and when you need coaching, invite others in. When you can be a coach, willingly share your information and expertise. Remember, coaching is a mindset and a skill set. You need to have courage and the skills so that you don’t let growth moments slip away.