If you look up coaching in the dictionary, you will discover that the original definition of coach, from several hundred years ago, was a means of transportation – to get from point A to point B. Over the years it was broadened to include sports, performing and tutoring. The dictionary does not include a definition for today’s “new coaching”, despite it being so present in the marketplace. We are all familiar with the terms life coach, team coach, peer coach, executive coach, culture coach, tech coach etc. However, if we loop back to the original meaning of the word, it is still immensely relevant. Coaching does assist with movement from point A to point B!
As the concept of leadership coaching changes with the times, here are new considerations to ensure successful outcomes:
- Business knowledge on the part of the coach must be added to the coaching mix
- Anchor the change you are trying to effect into the business and learning agenda. A measurable starting and finishing point are needed, and they should be concrete rather than based on gentle behavioral changes that allow for too much speculation and wiggle room.
- The nature of coaching must move from the counseling model of helping, encouraging and creating space to the enabling model of questioning, stimulating and creating forward momentum.
How do you know a situation merits launching a coaching initiative? Whether you’re considering introducing coaching for one individual, a pair who need to work together more effectively, or for an entire team, the criteria for success remains the same:
- Is the individual/team motivated to change and learn?
- Does the individual/team believe they are the primary person or group that needs to do something now (ie. taking responsibility for the change that is needed)?
- Is the individual/group ready for a collaborative partnership to learn and/or achieve business results?
- Is the individual/group receptive to outside feedback and guidance?
- Is the individual/group ready to commit him/herself/themselves to a period of significant time and work to make the coaching successful?
Understanding the context of the coachee requires thorough exploration before the scope of the coaching solution can be identified. Knowing the coachee’s history with the organization and the current situation they find themselves in, along with perspectives of the manager and others, helps to anchor the coaching solution to business reality.
What will be the focus of the process and how will performance outcomes be measured? For example, if the individual needs to learn how to manage conflict better, do a better job of influencing key stakeholders, be more or less assertive, or manage a team more effectively, the focus should be grounded in the business results that can be realized with measurable improvement in the issue at hand.
Next, how will the process proceed? Establishing a schedule and structure for each appointment, a review of each session, assignments to practice between sessions, can help set expectations that provide structure to the process. In addition, guidelines and policy regarding ethics and confidentiality must be clearly understood.
“Fit” between the coach and the coachee is also essential; there must be an easy yet professional rapport between the two. A level of trust must be reached so that the tough issues can be faced and the hard questions can be answered.
Finally, coaching cannot happen in a vacuum. Integration and alignment with other leaders and the team, the business strategy and an overall vision for the organization is essential to move the coaching experience beyond a “stick-on fix.” With proper planning and key parameters addressed, coaching can demonstrate that it improves performance, is a process that drives action, helps people grow and develop, and creates pathways to new possibilities.