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A quick guide to coaching

This quick guide to coaching from training organisation Changing Perspective outlines the most important aspects of coaching to consider.

To Coach or Mentor?

Mentoring and coaching are often terms used interchangeably, but there are important differences.

Coaching is about helping people recognise how they might operate differently, use their strengths more or challenge the way people are thinking in order to help them achieve higher levels of performance. The coach works alongside staff to help them learn, on a one to one basis, through self-exploration, building on existing talent and skills. Unlike mentoring, an effective coach won't provide the answers, but will ask all the right questions.

A Happy Marriage

The coaching relationship is performance focused, concentrating on what the learner wants to learn. It's therefore important to match the manager with a coach who has expertise in the relevant areas. The coach is entirely focused on the task and on the development of specific skills. Feedback is explicit to improve performance in a particular area but it is likely to take the form of questioning about the individual's decision making and thinking processes, encouraging them to consider alternative perspectives with the coach acting as a sounding board for ideas.

Are You Listening?

The coach should listen 70% of the time and talk for only 30%. Listening well will help the coaching process. Observing the coachee, reflecting key data back to them and using their own words to summarise information, will support mutual understanding and ensure that the speaker feels understood.

Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere

Coaching can happen through face-to-face meetings, on the phone, or even by email. Most important is the commitment to the process, and deciding on the best environment within which to conduct it.

How Do You Coach Yours?

Clarifying the coaching approach is vital to its success. Is the coaching observation based with feedback, are the issues to be addressed personal or business related, will the sessions be 'big thinking' or will they focus on a specific area, is it about what's happening now, or what is to happen in the future? While there are differences in the coaching approach the fundamentals of the process don't change.

  • The context is performance improvement
  • Explicit outcomes are agreed
  • Coaching is delivered on an incremental basis

The coaching process is systematic, working through strategic objectives. A coach should be questioning and challenging, not advising.

Does It Work?

Measuring success is easier if the coach and manager set out the specific aspects of the business they want to change and what their personal objectives are in participating in the development. Coaching can assist in achieving business goals, helping reap the rewards in daily company decision-making.

Fiona Silberbach, managing director of Changing Perspective, says: "One of the great benefits of coaching is that it is one of the quickest and most effective methods of leveraging existing skill sets to improve performance and self-motivation. This is largely due to the level of 'buy-in' from students throughout, and because the learning process is highly focused on individual performance linked to business objectives. Coaching can add real value to bring about sustainable change.

Continued Fiona: "The coach can help finely tune performance, identifying what is really working well and guiding the individual to see and explore what they can do to achieve and stay at peak performance.

"However, the quality of the coaching process is down to the skills of the coach. Poor coaching is costing million of pounds in lost performance across UK organisations so it's important to invest in getting it right."

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© 2005 Changing Perspective. Reproduced with permission. Any opinions or views contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Training Reference.

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