Coaching out in the business world looks a lot different to coaching out on the field. While shouting and whistles might work for some people, employee coaching is about encouraging and nurturing talent, offering constructive criticism for improvement in agreed upon areas and providing positive feedback to employees to keep them — and, therefore, the team — moving forward. It's about teaching and reinforcing productive and ultimately successful behaviors to curate a more effective force of contributors.
What Is Employee Coaching?
In order to improve employee performance, employers should be both counseling and coaching employees on what works well and what doesn't. This doesn't need to wait for the annual review but, rather, employee coaching should be happening during day-to-day interaction between a manager and an employee who reports to that manager.
That said, a number of professional coaches would argue that managers should not attempt to "coach" their employees, as they've too vested an interest in the outcome of their coaching that they couldn't be neutral, effective coaches. Others would argue that managers already spend their time teaching, telling or advising (some may even be micromanaging), and therefore are already "coaching" their employees regularly.
It's important to understand what employee coaching really means to better understand whether or not you or the managers on your team could serve as employee coaches. The fact is that coaching is actually a two-way street — it requires advising and listening, with which some managers may struggle. An employee coach should be able to have both directive and non-directive skills. Some directive skills include:
- Providing Feedback
- Offering Suggestions
Non-directive coaching, however, is more about listening to the employee and asking them questions. This is because, when an employee solves a problem on his or her own (usually with the help of challenging questions from the coach), they're typically more committed to the issue at hand and, therefore, are more likely to achieve success in actually doing something about it. This is also key because, when employees aren't afforded the opportunities to solve their own problems, they become inevitably dependent upon management and never get better at problem solving, which can hurt both team productivity and their careers.
In short: While feedback and direction are indubitably helpful tools, a coach is not only directing or acting in an authoritarian manner. They should also be able to collaborate with the employee to stimulate an employee's own ideas by helping them to reduce the noise cluttering their brains and solve problems on their own. They should be working together to identify, target and plan for performance improvement.
While it may seem like coaching sounds a lot like mentoring, a mentoring relationship usually involves a senior employee passing on their know-how and experience to assist a lower-level colleague. Coaching is done intentionally with a professional at coaching itself, not necessarily the industry.
"Coaching in the workplace can be a difficult skill for managers to master as most managers are used to directing work rather than achieving it through employee development," according to Coach 4 Growth. "In this situation the coach is acting as facilitator to help the employee achieve self-realization around opportunities for improvement by asking probing, and often tough, questions and challenging the employee to think about their goals as well as how to achieve them. This also means that the coach does not need to be an expert on the development area. Sure, it helps but since coaching is more focused on the employee owning their own development the coach can help by providing resources in place of direct expertise."
Sometimes when a coach should be brought in are when an employee laughs off the manager's feedback, isn't interested in being coached, is a star employee who needs high-level coaching, according to the Harvard Business Review. Remember that the objective of coaching an employee is to help that employee make distinct improvements that are measurable. Some managers are capable of doing that, while others are not — and, sometimes, it all just comes down to how busy they are. Coaching may take more time and patience than managing.
How Should You Structure Work Coaching?
The truth is that coaching takes practice, and the more employees with whom you work, the better at coaching you'll certainly become. But in order to get started, you should have some idea of how to structure work coaching, as a framework can help streamline the process.
Many coaches use what is called the "GROW Model." There are several versions of the GROW acronym, but here is a popular one:
- G for Goal: This refers to the goal or purpose of the conversation — what does the employee wish to gain from the conversation with their coach?
- R for Reality: This refers to the issue at hand — what is the problem that needs to be solved?
- O for Options: This refers to the possible solutions — what are the various things the employee can do to tackle the issue at hand?
- W for What’s Next: This refers to the next steps — of all the options for solutions, what will the employee choose to do to tackle the issue at hand and by when?
Remember that, regardless of your coaching structure, you should always possess some key characteristics of a coach who understands their role. Coaches should always be all of the following:
- Confident in the Employee
- Can Hold the Employee Accountable
- A Good Listener
- An Effective Communicator Who Provides Constructive Feedback
- A Cheerleader
What's an Example of an Employee Coaching Template?
Here's a good example of an employee coaching template from Bargainator that has some questions to ask employees.
Some activities to do with employees upon filling out this form include:
- Regularly meeting to discuss progress and successes
- Regularly meeting to discuss concerns
- Regularly meeting to affirm goals
- Implementing incentive plans to reward employees' successes
What Are Some Resources for Employee Coaching?
There are tons of resources out there for coaches to better their skills and help employees reach their full potential. Here are some podcasts, books, trainings and conferences for the coach what really wants to understand what employee coaching is.
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever
- Unlocking Potential 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations
- Coaching, Counseling & Mentoring, Second Edition How to Choose & Use the Right Technique to Boost Employee Performance
- Coaching for Performance
Trainings & Conferences
- The Conference Board
- Employee Engagement Conference
- Internal Coaching and Mentoring Conference
- Introduction to Coaching and Mentoring Online Training Course
Professional development isn't only necessary for employees; coaches need to develop professionally, as well, to better help their employees. The best way to do this is to learn from other coaches — either coaches you've had or coaches with whom you work. Coaches within your organization may want to consider organizing regular meetings with themselves, which can be the simplest way to achieve learn from one another's skillsets and structures of coaching. These meetings would also ensure that all of the coaches involved are using best practices and are kept up to date with organizational changes.
For more information on employee coaching, be sure to check out these posts on Fairygodboss:
- Why Leadership Coaching Is Essential to Your Career Development
- Could This Type Of Coaching Boost Your Career?
- 5 Things You Should Know About Working With a Career Coach
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.