Coaching: What Really Works

twisted tree trunkIn my previous article, The Coaching Industry’s Greatest Myth, I asserted that the field of coaching in a business environment has gone astray.

Performance-driven business coaching has been contaminated with all kinds of techniques, running the gamut from client-driven counseling methods, inner discovery, and pseudo-psychology to asking leading questions and communicating in an artless and manipulative way.

It seems like everyone wants to adopt the word “coaching,” and this term has been twisted to mean so many things that at this point, it means almost nothing at all.

If we put the fads aside and really examine the roots of coaching in business, it becomes clear that genuine coaching has two simple, core focal points: one is performance and the other is development.

A true performance coach influences others by providing feedback on the results people produce. Development coaching provides coachees with the feedback and guidance they need to help them learn from experience and acquire better capabilities, expertise, and judgment.

Working in the field of manager coaching, teaching well over a thousand coaching workshops in over 30 countries, writing a doctoral dissertation on coaching, and conducting ongoing research on this broad and intriguing topic has taught me a few things—one of which is that a good business-coaching process for managers is founded on a few simple principles:

Five Business-Coaching Principles

  1. Business coaches have to develop and sustain a good relationship with the person being coached. Managers must recognize the value that their people bring to the organization and be willing to hold others accountable for the results they are capable of achieving. Effective coaches demonstrate that they take the interests of their people to heart.
  2. Performance coaches are willing to openly acknowledge positive, desirable behavior but also have the courage to call people out when they are off target, need to be challenged, or must make improvements. Good coaches set clear expectations, hold people accountable for their targets and responsibilities, and help close gaps in performance.
  3. Business coaches help people step back and assess the impact (positive and negative) of their choices and actions. They share their insights and speak candidly about the effects that great, mediocre, or poor performance has on teams, customers, and stakeholders.  This increased level of understanding helps unleash the coachee’s motivation to change.
  4. coaching momentGreat coaches help the person they are coaching map out a plan for moving forward.  They share ideas about how coachees can apply their strengths and boldly offer options and ideas, suggestions for improvement, and opportunities for development. They are not autocratic or micro-managerial. Instead, they spark creativity, work through differences, and figure out the best solutions by partnering with the coachee. They ask for a clear commitment and seek genuine buy-in for any agreements that are made.
  5. World-class business coaches close their coaching conversations by discussing potential outcomes: the results that success with the plan will produce and the risks and costs if the coaching commitments fail to be met. This part of a coaching conversation is central to achieving results from and establishing accountability for commitments made during the coaching session.

At CMOE, we call this process Coaching TIPS2™, so named because the tips we provide in our TIPS²™ coaching program are memorable and user friendly—and unlike some programs, TIPS²™ provides real-world coaching skills and a framework for all types of coaching discussions that managers might encounter.

I come from the belief that people don’t know what they don’t know. In other words, people won’t perform better or develop as professionals until an invested, supportive coach explains how people can improve and shares honest feedback about their blind spots. What this means is that the 21st-century work force requires more coaching that comes from the “outside in.”

When managers shoot straight with their team members and are disciplined and consistent, their coaching efforts work. It’s crucial to talk about expectations, challenge people, and maintain accountability. Coaches have to be forthright and talk about things that may be a bit uncomfortable.

team strengthHaving effective coaching conversations hinges on the coach’s willingness to be courageous and openly disclose what they see in others.

A coach’s goal is to build the strongest team possible in the interest of serving customers, sponsors, and investors to the best of its abilities. These leader-coaches are the catalyst for change and better results, behaviors, and employee and organizational development.

Coaching is the primary task of a leader; leaders have a duty to open up candid coaching conversations that will help the organization achieve its mission and help people learn, reach their potential, and contribute more to the team.

This is the type of coaching training that leaders want and need. This is what produces tangible and sustainable results that benefit the leader, the team member, and ultimately, the organization.

masksFor the last 35 years, my purpose has been to help managers understand the essence of coaching and learn how to have honest, direct, two-way discussions with employees.

I have dedicated myself to teaching leaders how to have coaching conversations about performance and development with their employees without playing games, wasting precious time, or asking leading questions in the search to unlock the employee’s mystical “hidden inner you.”

The trendy techniques that have become so popular lately have drifted much too far from the original goal of business coaching: To help people in business elevate their game.

jugglerThis fashionable, but insubstantial, training movement is doing business and managers a real disservice.

Realizing the authentic inner you and achieving subjective, individual fulfillment makes sense in some situations, but it just doesn’t fit the coaching situations that most managers face every day.

These leaders are trying to unlock the performance and contribution of their team members in the interest of the business—and the clever, well-packaged, highly entertaining “coaching” programs found everywhere on the market today simply aren’t sustainable in the working environments of most modern managers.

Improve Your Coaching Style. Download This Coaching Resource to Improve Your Coaching Skills.

About the Author

Steven Stowell, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth. Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries. Steve enjoys the challenges of • Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business. • Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations. • Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans. The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.

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