This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
One of the great privileges we have in leadership roles is the potential opportunity to help develop and grow the people we are trying to serve. One valuable tool we have is coaching. Ian Berry hits on the value of coaching when he observed, "Coaching is a unique process of human development, one that works to change a person's life for the better and help him/her achieve a number of specific objectives."
Coaching in simple terms involves a coach working with a coachee in order to help the coachee improve and be even more successful. We often think in terms of sports coaches, and we know that even the world's greatest athletes rely on coaches to help them develop and become better at what they do. Coaching also applies to the business world and to our personal lives — we can all benefit by both giving and receiving coaching.
Let’s start by looking at the traits of a good coach before looking at a simple coaching model and concluding by examining the keys to successful coaching.
Ten Traits of a Good Coach
All of us have the potential to be good coaches that can benefit those we are trying to coach. I suggest the number one trait for a coach to be successful is to really care about people and have a desire to help them grow and develop. I resonate with Byron and Catherine Pulsifier when they declared, “The best coaches really care about people. They have a sincere interest in people.”
Let's explore the following list of 10 specific, desirable traits for us to intentionally pursue and practice:
1) Have an organized and committed approach Use some of the tips in this article and elsewhere to develop a thoughtful approach to your coaching.
2) Be process oriented Develop a process that includes important characteristics such as having standards and goals, monitoring, and feedback.
3) Practice Participative Feedback Feedback should be encouraged and flow both directions.
4) Be Objective Try to be impartial and rely on actual results, not only subjective assessments.
5) Knowledgeable/Skills A good coach has knowledge and skills in the areas where she is coaching.
6) Balanced/Fair The best coaches provide lots of positive encouragement and feedback. Good coaches also provide corrective input but not too much, which can be discouraging.
7) Flexible A good coach exhibits flexibility and adjusts to meet the needs of the coachee.
8) Patient/Tolerant Patience by the coach will help the coachee feel less stressed and more supported when mistakes happen.
9) Tough/Firm There are times when a coach needs to be tough and provide constructive input. Jack Welch speaks to this by saying, "Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will."
10) Realistic The best coaches realize that we all have limits to how far we can develop — very few become the "Michael Jordan" of their profession.
The GROW Coaching Model
One popular model to help us be good coaches is the GROW approach. GROW is an acrostic defined as follows:
G = Goal Setting The coach works with the coachee to define short and long-term goals.
R = Reality The coach helps the coachee explore the current situation and present reality — both positive and falling short of meeting expectations.
O = Options Here the coach helps identify and evaluate different strategies and actions to meet the intended goals.
W = Will This is where a commitment is made by the coachee — what will you do, and by when?
The 10 Keys to Successful Coaching
Following are some practical keys to help ensure a mutually beneficial coaching experience:
1) Set challenging and clarified expectations. At the onset of a coaching engagement, it is essential to clarify expectations of both the coach and coachee. And since the purpose of coaching is to help the coachee improve and be more successful, mutually defining what success looks like is important as the next key emphasizes.
2) Create a vision that inspires. Defining what success looks like includes creating a vision of the future — a future that inspires the coachee to want to take the journey to achieve that vision of being a better person. Ara Parasheghian spoke to the role that coaches can play when he said, "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."
3) Build ownership and commitment. The coach needs to help the coachee own the coaching process and vision, and be committed to work at having the vision become reality. Gordon Dryden observed, "People will exceed targets they set themselves" and we know that is often the case.
4) Build accountability. At the heart of the coaching relationship is a mutual accountability of the coach and coachee to each other and to following the expectations and pursuing the vision that have been set.
5) Create a development-focused partnership. The primary focus on the coaching partnership should be on the development of the coachee. This doesn't rule out secondary benefits such as developing deeper personal and professional relationships.
6) Ask, don't tell. The most effective coaching takes place when the coach leads the coachee to discover and learn what they can on their own. Asking open ended questions is an effective tool a coach can use. Phil Dixon illustrates this when he shared, "Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answers." An example of an open-ended question could be, "How would you like to grow this month?"
7) Listen deeply. After asking open ended questions, it is imperative to listen deeply. Listen deeply includes focusing on the person and clearing your mind, giving full attention including attentive body language, asking clarifying questions, and restating back key messages to ensure your understanding.
8) Don't be judgmental. Coaches should avoid the perception of being judgmental as it will cause coachees to clam up and not share their full thoughts and feelings.
9) Provide good feedback. Effective coaches provide continual feedback, primarily positive but also corrective. Feedback should:
· Be timely. Ideally it should occur as soon as practical after the interaction, completion of the deliverable, or observation is made.
· Be specific. A statement like "You did a great job," although positive, is too vague for future growth. We need to be more specific about what was done well or what should be improved for the future.
· Focus on the "what," not the "why." Avoid appearing judgmental. Start with "'I have observed ..." or "I have seen..." and then refer to the behavior. Focus on the behavior and not the person. Describe what you heard and saw and how those behaviors impact the team and others.
· Use a positive and sincere tone of voice. Avoid a tone that exhibits anger, frustration, disappointment, or sarcasm.
10) Focus on moving forward positively. Staying positive and focusing on pursuing the vision of improvement and growth benefits the coach and coachee.
Pete Carroll is a football coach who has led his teams to college and pro championships. He encourages all of us that coach by saying, "Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen." My best to you as coach to help your teams and employees reach their full potential!