What Does Coaching Mean at Work?

“Coaching is a two-way communication process between members of the organization (leaders to team members, peers to peers, team members to leaders) aimed at influencing and developing the employees’ skills, motivation, attitude, judgment or ability to perform, and the willingness to contribute to an organization’s goals.

“Coaching is an ongoing process of building a partnership for continuous improvement within an organization.”

Coaching for Results by Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D., Eric D. Mead, Cherissa S. Newton.

Why Is Coaching Important in the Workplace?

In order to maximize the full potential of your organization and the people who work in it, you must engage people in conversations about their performance and contribution to the organization’s mission and goals. When people have clarity about their roles and responsibilities, well-defined expectations, and regular coaching and feedback about their progress, better results will follow. Without open and transparent coaching, people often assume that everything is going well and that “no news is good news.”

Effective coaches help team members understand their strengths, opportunities for improvement, and how to continue growing and developing in their careers. World-class coaches have the courage and skills needed to engage in productive, formal, and informal interactions that are aimed at utilizing the strengths of the people who will ultimately help the organization achieve its purpose and strategy. When you grow people, you grow the business.

What are the Three Roles of a Coach?

There are three primary roles of a coach.

  1. Recognize the strengths and achievements of others, celebrate success, and map out ways to expand and reinforce progress.
  2. Courageously and skillfully work with team members to address issues, concerns, and challenges that routinely occur in an organization.
  3. Be coachable. Be open to feedback and input from team members, colleagues and peers. Be willing to grow, develop, and learn.

How Can You Provide Coaching in a Work Environment?

Opportunities to coach in the work environment are abundant. Coaches need to be observant and prepared to seize each opportunity to optimize performance and engage the people who drive results in the organization. Coaching in the work environment typically occurs in two ways.

1. Informal coaching moments when you have an opportunity to coach others on the spot. These are unscheduled interaction points or events that occur every day.

The following are examples of informal coaching moments:

  • When people achieve positive results
  • When people experience a setback or challenge
  • When a conflict suddenly emerges
  • When someone on your team is late, misses work, or doesn’t meet a critical deadline
  • When someone has a new idea and wants advice and guidance about how to implement it
  • During a project review

2. Formal coaching opportunities that are planned or intentional coaching conversations.

The following are examples of formal coaching moments:

  • Onboarding of new employees
  • Setting performance goals
  • Engaging people in career planning discussions
  • When people have advanced to a new role
  • During a periodic or annual performance management reviews

What Is the Process for Effective Coaching?

The coaching process is not linear or mechanical. Coaching is a dynamic and fluid process using a set of integrated steps or skills. Based on over 40 years of research through double-blind studies, the following are the steps to effective coaching:

  1. Provide a supportive climate for the coaching conversation and share positive intentions.
  2. Provide a clear picture of the situation, offer data, and be open to the other person’s point of view.
  3. Help the other person discover blind spots, gain more awareness, and see the coaching topics or issues from a different perspective.
  4. Whenever possible, construct a plan of action, solution, or agreement with the person being coached that will address the concern or topic. The plan is not complete until both parties signal their commitment and buy-in.
  5. Establish a follow up process to assess progress with the change, action plan, or commitments.
  6. Respond to obstacles, challenges and resistance to the message, solution, or plan of action.

What Are the Five Primary Coaching Skills?

There are five core skills that play a critical role in effective coaching.

  1. Listening: The ability to hear, understand, and respect the point of view of the other person.
  2. Inquiry: The ability to seek out information, ask questions, and spark a two-way discussion.
  3. Assertiveness: The ability to share and call out issues, challenges, and opportunities for change and improvement.
  4. Collaboration: The ability to facilitate win-win solutions and plans that are mutually beneficial and founded on shared input and data.
  5. Creativity: The ability to think outside the box and generate innovative ideas and ways to achieve better results and create value.

What Is a Key Coaching Skill?

From over 40 years of research, double blind studies, and investigation, the skill coaches lack the most or find the most challenging is the ability to listen deeply and truly understand where the other person is coming from. Whether you agree with what is being shared or not, listening is a sign of respect and is a signal to the other person that you have an open mind about information you may not have. When a coach doesn’t listen, he/she may come across as being impatient or that they have the right perspective or the best solution.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Workplace Coach?

Effective coaches feel ownership for the following essential responsibilities:

  1. Recruit and retain talented people who are coachable and eager to grow and contribute.
  2. Define expectations, goals, and objectives for each team member.
  3. Provide clear and candid feedback about accomplishments.
  4. Provide clear and candid feedback about shortcomings, problems, or performance gaps.
  5. Arrange for informal development opportunities on the job as well as formal learning opportunities.
  6. Engage in regular discussions to prevent unwelcome or surprise information during formal performance reviews.
  7. Be accessible and available when people want advice, guidance, consultation, and feedback about their work from their leader.
  8. Know each employee and their unique needs and preferences and use that information to engage in effective communication and coaching.
  9. Ensure all team members are aligned and working cohesively to achieve tasks that depend on collaboration.
  10. Incorporate coaching principles, processes, and skills into the regular performance review discussions, as well as onboarding conversations with new colleagues and team members.

How to Implement Coaching in the Workplace

Building a coaching culture in the workplace is based on eight key factors.

  1. Provide quality coaching training and development to leaders and individual contributors who need to coach others.
  2. Have a robust application, sustainability, and reinforcement plan that includes opportunities to share coaching experiences and discuss how to overcome coaching obstacles.
  3. Provide refresher sessions to keep coaching skills sharp.
  4. Have a results forum where people can share progress and goal achievement.
  5. Create the expectation that coaches schedule short coaching sessions with people once or twice per month.
  6. Incorporate coaching principles and skills into meetings, group conversations, and organization initiatives of all types.
  7. Make coaching a fundamental job expectation or requirement, particularly for leaders.
  8. Encourage leaders to be coaching role models and talk openly about the importance of it in achieving the organizations goals.

What Are the Goals of Coaching in the Workplace?

The primary goals of coaching include the following:

  1. Enhanced motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction
  2. New insights and greater awareness
  3. Clear expectations
  4. Innovative solutions and ideas
  5. Greater trust and stronger relationships
  6. Higher levels of candor, transparency, and constructive openness
  7. Better solutions and results for key stakeholders
  8. Ongoing development of team member knowledge, skills, and abilities
  9. Clarity of purpose
  10. Greater team member confidence and engagement

What Are the Three Main Styles of Workplace Coaching?

The three main styles or approaches to coaching include the following:

  1. Directive: This is a more command and control style of coaching. It relies on the coach’s ability to enforce compliance with the direction and instruction provided. It is typically a one-way dialogue where the coach explains the coaching topic and directs the plan of action.
  2. Persuasive: This style of coaching focuses on the leader’s convincing logic and reasoning. It depends on the coach’s ability to sell or explain the benefits of his/her solution or point of view.
  3. Collaborative: The collaborative style is based on two-way dialogue and reasoning. It depends on the contribution, ideas, and reasoning of the coach and the person being coached and the ability to work together. Commitment is based on shared ownership and genuine commitment to the solution or agreement.

There is a fourth style that is rarely discussed. This style is often referred to as the teaching style. This style relies on the coach being able to instruct and teach new skills, knowledge, and abilities to the coaching. Helping the people being coached with the learning and development of new capabilities can be incorporated in every coaching style.

What Is an Example of Coaching?

Let’s say you have a team member who has been a part of your team for a long time.  Generally speaking they do a good job and have positive intentions. In fact, this employee has grown and advanced in recent years. However, this person has recently moved into a role that requires effective interactions with internal and external customers. These interactions require slightly different skills, knowledge, and capabilities than this person is accustomed to.

In recent days, you have received feedback from customers about this team member’s behavior and choices, which has created some issues. You have gathered data and made some observations that confirm a conflict is beginning to emerge with some important customer projects. You decide that this is the right time to intervene and have a full coaching discussion where you can explore all angles of the issue and raise the awareness of the team member about their opportunity for improvement before it escalates further.

You arrange a time that is good for you and the other person to discuss their point of view, explore any blind spots they may have, and formulate plans and agreements that are mutually acceptable. During the initial coaching conversation, you share your point of view and listen carefully while your team member shares his/her point of view. Together you create a plan to address the issue. Arrangements are made to follow up in one week to discuss progress with the plan of action and address any obstacles. You and the team member leave the coaching conversation committed to the adjustments and course correction.

Even though there were challenging moments when confronting the realities of the issue, both you and the team member are more aligned and the team member knows how to meet expectations and be more successful in the new role.

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