To many people, legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi embodied the definition of coaching, demonstrating the principles that he expected his players to live by and inciting them to go the extra mile. As Lombardi understood, the very definition of a coach is one who instructs or advises; members of the coach’s team look to that person as a source of continual learning.
In the business world, as in the athletic world, coaches help their “coachees” reach their next level of performance by examining past performances and working on areas for improvement. In order to be at the top of their game, coaches, too, need to continually hone their skills. Continuously improving your skills as a coach not only benefits members of your team, it ultimately benefits you as well.
Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Tailoring your coaching style for each person you coach will result in a more beneficial relationship for all involved. What are some ways that coaches work to improve their skills and work to fulfill the needs of all their team members?
The Coach is In
Coaching may be one of many duties you perform in the course of a work week. If you find yourself coaching members of a team, department, or unit, you can make use of several tools that successful coaches have employed to make the most of their coaching time.
- Open coaching hours: Set aside a block of time each week as designated “coaching time.” Team members will know that they can come to you during this time to help them get focused and report on their progress. These are one-on-one sessions where you can tailor your coaching to the individual you are meeting with. During open coaching hours, team members can feel comfortable knowing that you are available strictly for developing a coaching relationship.
- Hold stand up meetings: A brief team meeting at the start or end of the day gives you the opportunity to recap the highlights of what the team has been working on or offer encouragement to the group.
Coaching is not a one-sided endeavor. It is a dialogue, which is most successful when both the coach and coachee are sharing ideas and information. Trust is one of the most important elements of this relationship. Do you trust that the person you are coaching is truly interested in improving? Do your conversations with the coachee feel forced? Are you adapting your conversation to the coachee’s personality?
Are you able to drive improvement by holding the coachee to higher expectations than he might set for himself? Do you have faith that the person can reasonably live up to those expectations?
When holding a coaching conversation, have a general idea of your goal in mind and invite the coachee to suggest the specific process for reaching the goal. You can offer your thoughts on refining the process and guide the conversation into more of a give-and-take where the coachee is helping to forge his path. Don’t just tell them how to get there, show them the way.
If you are coaching more than one person on a particular team, take care not to compare the performance of one person to the performance of someone else. Treat each individual as a unique situation, even if the overall team goal is the same. Help each coachee build upon his or her strengths and leave each coaching session eager to return for more.
Improving as a Coach
The best coaches are continually learning and use all the tools at their disposal to improve their skills. As a coach, you can do a self-evaluation and set your own personal goals for improvement. You can evaluate the quality of your feedback (Is it timely? Is it specific? Is negative feedback balanced with positive?) or your listening skills (Do you actively listen to your team member? Do you clarify what she is saying?). There are a number of coaching self-evaluations available for you to consider.
You can also turn to colleagues and peers to help you improve. If you know you have a difficult coaching conversation coming up, role play it with a colleague to work out any bumps or sticking points. Of course, you don’t want to rigidly script your coaching session, but your co-worker may offer objective insight on how your comments, tone, or inflection may be received.
However , some of the most critical feedback a coach can receive comes from his team members. Even as you help your coachees improve and meet their goals, they can help you improve as well. Make it a habit during regular one-on-one coaching sessions to check in with your coachee about your effectiveness as a coach. Ask him what is working for him and what you may need to adjust. Show him how you constructively use his feedback to make the coaching session more meaningful for him. Asking for and using feedback ultimately enhances satisfaction with the coaching process for both parties.