The Best Ways to Coach in Corporate Settings
Coaching is not a myth
Coaching is an effective leadership style and approach, but this doesn’t mean that coach-like leaders do not use other management skills.
On one hand, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when dealing with people. For example, if the person is totally new to the position and needs to have the basic understanding of things first, telling and training is most effective. In occasions of firefighting or emergencies, instructing and advising is necessary and appropriate.
On the other hand, coach-like leaders are still human beings. They can also be exhausted or emotionally charged occasionally, such as being angry or stressed. In such occasions when they may not be objective to others, it could be a good idea to postpone interaction with others and be attentive to themselves so that they can regain the positive energy to support others.
Coaching is to build capability and foster growth, which takes time and efforts. However, without time and efforts, no trees, individuals, teams or organizations can bear beautiful fruits or consistent growth. Coach-like leaders are insightful enough to see both the short-term and the long-term impact of leadership. They integrate coaching with other approaches in effective ways to have powerful and lasting influence on others. Jack Welch is a great example.
In whom should leaders invest their coaching time and energy?
The first answer should be “themselves”. Coach-like leaders shall be good at self-reflection first. And given the privilege of gaining awareness about themselves from coaching with others, they can be good at coaching themselves to solve problems, develop themselves and take care of themselves living a balanced and inspirational life.
As to others, there is no specific limit on who can be coached and who cannot. In fact, most of people respond well to the trusting, supporting and empowering approach of coaching. That being said, with limited resources coach-like leaders use their time and energy effectively based on:
- Who can benefit the most from coaching? and
- Who can output the most from the input of coaching?
The answer could be: CEOs, executives, high potentials, managers, special talents, less motivated employees, etc. It may vary from organization to organization, and leaders can use their insights of the organization to define it.
Coaching Integrated With Management Processes and Daily Conversations
In their book Solution-focused Coaching, Jane Green and Anthony Grant described that:
“in-house workplace coaching lies on a continuum from the formal structured workplace coaching at one end to the informal, on-the-run workplace coaching at the other – what you might call corridor coaching: the few minutes snatched in the corridor in the midst of a busy project.”
Formally, coaching can be well integrated into management processes in pre-scheduled conversations or activities, such as:
Besides formal coaching sessions, leaders or managers have many opportunities to influence people using coaching skills at various informal occasions. Since informal coaching takes place in daily workplace conversations, it may be that neither the leader nor the team would describe the conversation as “coaching”.
These conversations can be short or long, one-to-one or within a group, task-focused or people-focused. They are usually not pre-scheduled or prepared. What qualifies them as coaching is not a model or structure, but the style of conversation.
On the informal side, coaching can take place in:
Based on their preference, company culture, employees involved and the type of issue, leaders and managers can use coaching both formally and informally in complementary ways.
Team Coaching In Addition To Individual Coaching
Besides the commonly-known individual coaching, leaders can use coaching with teams, especially when new teams are forming, new leadership comes on board, or a more collaborative level of interaction is needed. This is particularly effective in fast pacing companies where leaders do not have much time to coach people one by one.
Team coaching helps team agree on a shared mission and action plans, resolve conflict, make decisions, increase creativity and productivity, improve communication, understanding and collaboration.
For example, a new leader/manager delegated to a “problematic” team can facilitate discussions on the following questions, either with individuals separately or with the team collectively:
- What is the best thing about working in this team?
- What do we do well as a team, and that is because of what assets of our team?
- What don’t we do so well as a team and what gets in the way?
- What one thing could make the biggest difference to our team’s performance?
- What would you like to do to contribute to it as a member of the team?
The core of team coaching, as individual coaching, is still about asking open, neutral, focused and in depth questions that help people open up, see new angles on issues and explore new options. The major difference is that it focuses more on interpersonal skills and interactions instead of on individual development, because the way people interact with each other is the most important driver of effective team performance.