Coaching is a process designed to help improve a person, team or organisation’s behaviour, cognition, actions, decision-making and overall efficiency.
In business, coaching is typically focused on organisational development i.e. on making businesses more efficient. However, other forms of coaching are applicable in the workplace, such as life coaching (how to live a happier and more effective life) and career coaching (techniques to further an individual’s career).
Coaching is undertaken in a range of settings and by different people, depending on the seniority of the people being coached and the reason for the coaching. More junior employees, more examples, can be coached by internal managers whereas senior leaders are more likely to bring in external, professional coaches.
Employees who engage in coaching are more likely to improve their self-confidence and grow in their ability to:
- Communicate effectively.
- Work constructively with others.
- Meet commitments and take responsibility for their actions.
- Set goals and take action to achieve them.
Although coaching is not mentoring, counselling, or teaching, the one-on-one sessions provide crucial space for personal development, which can improve your productivity and performance. Common focus areas for coaching include:
- Conflict resolution
- Goal setting and strategic thinking and planning
- Decision-making and problem-solving
- Leadership and team development
- Teamwork and relationship building
- Organization and time-management
Types of coaching:
Internal coaching: It is done within the organization, where a manager or leader acts as coach for their team. The coach knows the coachee and has interest in the quality of decision making of the organization.
External coaching: The coach is not a part of the organization or the line management structure, but he/she is an expert in the field in which coaching is being given. Organizations hire professionals to impart the skills required. The coach doesn’t know the coachee and has no interest in the quality of decision making of the organization.
Process of Coaching
- Setting developmental goals that are reasonable, attainable, and derived from a careful analysis of the areas where an employee needs to improve. These goals should take into account both short-term and long-term career objectives.
- Identifying resources and strategies that will help the employees achieve developmental goals.
- Implementing strategies that will allow the employee to achieve the developmental goals.
- Collecting and evaluating data to assess the extent to which each of the developmental goals has been achieved.
- Providing feedback to the employee and then revising developmental goals as needed.
Skills for Coaching
Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his/her goals.
Coaching is a goal-focused (or solution-focused) approach, so the ability to elicit clear, well-defined and emotionally engaging goals from the coaches is one of the most important skills for a coach to possess. Like many aspects of coaching, there are both formal and informal versions of this skill.
On the formal side, a coach needs to know how and when to introduce goal-setting into the coaching process, and will usually be familiar with models such Coaching and Mentoring as SMART goals (a SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Timed).
On the informal side, a coach will typically have the habit of thinking and asking questions from a goal-focused mindset.
A good deal is rightly written about the importance of listening in coaching, but looking is often (ahem) overlooked. When running coaching skills seminars one often says to the trainee coaches “The answer is right in front”.
Meaning that the person’s body language tells that a huge amount about her/his emotional state and level of commitment, yet it’s so easy to ignore that if we are too focused on our own ideas about what needs to happen next.
This is often referred to as active listening to emphasize the difference between passively taking in what the other person is saying and actively engaging with them and showing that one is giving them undivided attention. This involves putting his/her own concerns and idea ‘in a box’ while they listen, so can be particularly challenging for manager-coaches, but it’s a skill well worth developing.
Empathy develops naturally out of looking and listening. If one does this attentively, he/she can start to get a sense of the other person’s emotional state.
The ability to empathize is critical for a good business coach, as it not only helps the coach to accept the other person on their own terms, but also sometimes to ‘tune in’ to emotions and thoughts of which the coaches is not fully aware.
If one had to pick a thing that distinguished business coaching from other approaches to communication, management and learning, one would say “Questions”. At the heart of coaching is a willingness to put aside one’s own ideas about the ‘best/right/obvious way’ to do something, and to ask a question to elicit someone else’s ideas about how to approach it.
For coaches, being asked a question can do three very important things:
- Focus attention: questions are not directive, but they are influential. They prompt the coaches to look for a new idea or solution in a particular area.
- Elicit new ideas: however ‘obvious’ the answer may seem to the coach, it’s amazing how often coaches will come up with several different and often better alternatives.
- Foster commitment: there’s a huge difference between doing something because it has been told or suggested, and doing something that one has dreamt up yourself.
This is always a hot topic when one run’s coaching seminars. It’s a big subject, but the key to delivering effective coaching feedback is that it is observational and non-judgmental.
If a person provides clear, specific feedback about the coach’s actions and their consequences, then the chances are the coach will be perfectly capable of evaluating his performance for himself.
Like empathy, this is either innate ability or emerges from practising the other coaching skills. Sometimes during a coaching session, one can get a sudden thought or feel about the coaches or the subject under discussion – it’s as if something is prompting to ask a question or share what he/she is thinking/feeling.
There is a separate skill in coaching books, it is one of the most important habits for a coach to get into, and it can take considerable skill to know what, when and how to check.
It might seem pedantic or boring relative to the ideas and energy generated elsewhere in the coaching conversation, but if one doesn’t keep checking about an understanding of the client, whether the coachee has taken action, whether she has achieved the goal risk would let all the creativity and enthusiasm evaporate.
Mentorship is the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor. A mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. In an organizational setting, a mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee. Most traditional mentorships involve having senior employees mentor more junior employees, but mentors do not necessarily have to be more senior than the people they mentor. What matters is that mentors have experience that others can learn from.
According to the Business Dictionary, a mentor is a senior or more experienced person who is assigned to function as an advisor, counsellor, or guide to a junior or trainee. The mentor is responsible for offering help and feedback to the person under their supervision. A mentor’s role, according to this definition, is to use their experience to help a junior employee by supporting them in their work and career, providing comments on their work, and, most crucially, offering direction to mentees as they work through problems and circumstances at work.
Interaction with an expert may also be necessary to gain proficiency with cultural tools Mentorship experience and relationship structure affect the “amount of psychosocial support, career guidance, role modeling and communication that occurs in the mentoring relationships in which the protégés and mentors engaged”.
Mentoring involves the use of the same models and skills of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing associated with coaching.
Traditionally, mentoring in the workplace is usually where a more experienced colleague uses his or her greater knowledge and understanding of the workplace in order to support the development of a less experienced member of staff.
As the focus of mentorship is to develop the whole person, the techniques used are broad and require wisdom to be appropriately used. A 1995 study of mentoring techniques most commonly used in business found that the five most commonly used techniques among mentors were:
- Accompanying: The mentor participates in the learning process alongside the learner and supports them.
- Sowing: The mentor gives initially unclear or unacceptable advice to the learner that has value in a given situation.
- Catalyzing: The mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change to provoke a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
- Showing: The mentor teaches the learner by demonstrating a skill or activity.
- Harvesting: The mentor assesses and defines the utility and value of the learner’s skills.
Types of mentors:
- Multiple mentors: A new trend is for a learner to have multiple mentors. Having more than one mentor can expand the learner’s knowledge, as different mentors may have different strengths.
- Profession or trade mentor: This is someone who is currently in the trade or profession the learner is entering. They know the trends, important changes, and new practices that newcomers should know to stay at the top of their careers. A mentor like this would be someone a learner can discuss ideas with and also provides the learner with the opportunity to network with other individuals in the trade or profession.
- Industry mentor: This is someone who does not only focus on the profession and can give insight into the industry as a whole, such as research, development, or key changes.
- Organization mentor: Politics in organizations are constantly changing. It is important to be knowledgeable about the values, strategies, and products that are within the organisation, and when they change. An organization mentor can give clarity when needed, for example, on missions and strategies.
- Work process mentor: This mentor can cut through unnecessary work, explain the “ins and outs” of projects and day-to-day tasks, and eliminate unnecessary things in the learner’s workday. This mentor can help finish tasks quickly and efficiently.
- Technology mentor: Technology has been rapidly improving and becoming more a part of day-to-day transactions within companies. A technology mentor can help with technical breakdowns; advice on systems that may work better than what the learner is currently using, and coach them in using new technology.
Formal mentoring relationships are set up by an administrative unit or office in a company or organization, which solicits and recruits qualified individuals who are willing to mentor, provides training to the mentors, and helps to match the mentors with a person in need of mentoring. While formal mentoring systems contain numerous structural and guidance elements, they usually allow the mentor and mentee to have an active role in choosing who they want to work with. Formal mentoring programs that simply assign mentors to mentees without allowing input from these individuals have not performed well. Even though a mentor and a mentee may seem perfectly matched “on paper”, in practice, they may have different working or learning styles. As such, giving the mentor and the mentee the opportunity to help select who they want to work with is a widely used approach.
Informal mentoring occurs without the use of structured recruitment, mentor training and matching services. It can develop naturally between partners, such as business networking situations where a more experienced individual meets a new employee and the two build a rapport. Apart from these types, mentoring takes a dyadic structure in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM).
Peer mentoring: Relationships that involve individuals in similar positions. One person may be more knowledgeable in a certain aspect or another, and they can help each other progress in their work. In most cases, peer relationships provide a lot of support, empathy, and advice because the situations are quite similar.
Situational mentoring: Short-term relationships in which a person mentors for a specific purpose. This could be a company bringing an expert in regarding social media, or internet safety. This expert can mentor employees to make them more knowledgeable about a specific topic or skill.
Supervisory mentoring: This relationship involves a mentor with a higher position than the learner. The mentor can answer many questions and advise the best course of action.
Mentoring circles: Participants from all levels of the organization propose and own a topic before meeting in groups to discuss the topic, which motivates them to grow and become more knowledgeable. Flash mentoring is ideal for situations like job shadowing and reverse mentoring.
Flash mentoring: A short-term form of mentoring that focuses on single meetings rather than a traditional, long-term mentoring relationship.