Igniting the spirit of service through coaching

Katherine Carol

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

Volume 27 Number One Spring 2006, PAGES 27-30

 

 

Firing up the perfect blend of purpose, performance, passion and profit is at the heart of coaching. We can greatly expand existing resources when we cultivate the talents and skills of the people in our organizations. Coaching achieves this. One recent study in the public sector showed that training, when done alone, increases employee productivity by 23%; coaching and training increases it by 88%.

The goal of most managers is to foster the finest qualities in an organization while providing a welcoming environment for employees. This welcoming environment takes into consideration employee desires, objectives and differences, and is often a challenge to create.

Coaching can enhance current management and human resource efforts. It ranges from traditional personnel management to the inspiration and development of individual employees. When you look at the concept of coaching, it makes sense—particularly when you are striving to increase your organizational capacity by increasing personal capacity. A helpful and powerful synergy occurs when the employees who are serving the greater good also experience personal and professional growth.

Here is my vision of a vital and effective organization: an organization comprised of a team of professionals who live to make a positive difference at work and in their communities. Each person shares a bond with other team members, experiencing and developing a level of trust that promotes calculated risk-taking and reduces fear. Organizational and personal growth occurs in the fertile ground of a high-trust work environment, resulting in higher productivity, which can be sustained without pressure or expensive reward systems.

I envision a team vividly living the mission everyday, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and arm-in-arm, doing high performance work. I see in my mind’s eye a great group of excited, passionate partners full of ideas and strategies. I see an employee who seeks to take on more responsibilities and strives to improve his or her life. It is not difficult to attract new people and resources to such an organization when the internal environment is supportive of its team members.

THE PROBLEM

This is the vision; the reality is often something else. Creating that kind of success in today’s world, where nothing seems certain, is more challenging than ever. The rules keep changing—sometimes daily. What worked yesterday may still work today, but people want more from us—faster, better, cheaper—and with more choices. They want to feel the passion and see the results—NOW! All of this occurs amidst fluctuating human and financial resources.

THE ANSWER

The answer lies in focusing on core competencies. It also means providing an atmosphere of imaginative grace as programs and services simply and elegantly evolve through leadership development and the best-proven practices. This is the principal strategy in high-performing organizations. Why is it that many organizations have trouble getting past basic training and orientation?

Effective training combined with a strong internal coaching program can increase results dramatically. Coaching can be used to improve employee and manager skills in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Career and Personal Growth  
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Relationship with Coworkers and Supervisors  
  • Leadership Development  
  • Supervision  
  • Organizational and Personal Values  
  • Negotiation Strategies  
  • Decision-making Skills  
  • Work / Life Balance

According to Business Week magazine (January 10, 2000), coaching has become a legitimate industry. Corporations using coaching are seeing not only improvements in an individual’s performance, but also increased profits, customer satisfaction and greater retention of talented employees. Additionally, employees report more self-confidence, stronger skills and more goals achieved, along with better relationships as a result of coaching. Coaching works.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Coaching takes a variety of forms. Some are strictly performance-based or skill-specific and designed for quick improvement in a limited area of concern. Others are more transformational and growth-oriented. An example of performance-based coaching comes from an executive who recently approached me needing help to make a job change. His concerns were twofold: first, how could he ensure that the new job was structured in a way to meet his emotional needs, financial needs and talents? The second was how to position himself with the existing organization so the exit would be relatively smooth. A tough challenge, since relationships within the organization he was leaving were tense and fear-based. Elegant exits are challenging. This is where coaching can be quite effective. It can provide an objective perspective by discovering the client’s patterns of high performance. With this client, I started by examining his choice of employers and worked to discover his conscious and unconscious motivations for selecting his chosen profession.

The coaching approach in this situation consisted of a series of one- to two-hour sessions every week for a month. The coaching relationship was centered on developing a management plan for the new job and carefully negotiating an exit plan from the current position. Through observation and a systematic approach using questions that were both reflective and action-oriented, we discovered together a repetitive and often ineffective pattern of decision-making and found that many of the client’s actions were based on inaccurate assumptions.

A coach can be particularly effective in bringing a symptomatic pattern to the individual’s attention and in helping him or her discover new ways of approaching similar situations more effectively. One way is to help clients examine their value systems and compare them to their actions and decision-making patterns. If a substantial gap exists between values and actions, words and deeds, the client may be pushing ahead aggressively while, at the same time, applying the brakes. This results in reduced effectiveness and increased stress and frustration. It is at this point that the coach will offer observations and help the client examine the impact his or her current pattern is having on long-range goals.

I helped my client with a mix of Lazer (quick, 5-10 minute) sessions and longer sessions that resulted in a very satisfied executive, who was surprised to find that he had actually exceeded his own initial expectations. (Lazer sessions are quick and concise coaching sessions that are very topic specific. For instance: “I had a confrontation with my boss today, and I am not sure how to handle it.”) Confidently armed with new skills, this executive can now eagerly dive into a new job with a concrete plan for developing relationships with his new team, and strategies for building a high-trust work environment that cultivates strategic innovation.

Another coaching relationship used the proximity of working together to achieve personal, health-related goals that two co-workers had. Both individuals needed to adopt a healthier lifestyle or risk some serious complications. They set goals around healthy eating and exercise, trusting one another to look at why they had not been pursuing a better style of living already.

They used a well-known coaching technique called “Questioning” to get at the “root causes,” not just the symptoms of the problems. Their relationship was a strong one. Therefore, with the permission of both parties to ask why and how questions, they were successful in getting to the heart of their issues.

Some examples of questions that are used to gain understanding are:

1. What do we need to understand about this situation?

2. What facts are we missing or misinterpreting?

3. What do you want?

4. What do you see?

5. What did you learn?

Solution-oriented questions are used to create options, which lead to more concrete action.

1. What choices do we have to solve this problem?

2. What can we do to improve the outcome in this case?

3. What direction would help us take advantage of this situation?

If solution questions are not working, then “possibility questions” are very helpful. Just changing the wording slightly can generate more creative thinking.

1. If there were a “must do,” what would it be?

2. If you could improve this in any way possible, how would you do it?

3. What might be a way to solve this problem?

4. Well, if it could work, what would we do?

5. If money was available and the rules were suspended, what would be the first thing you would do?

The questioning techniques also develop strategies to help the people you are working with move past their limitations. Oftentimes, management methods focus on quick fixes rather than listening for the root causes. Questioning helps us find the best solution rather than just any solution. Questioning the people being coached on what solutions they see leads to a greater investment in follow-through, resulting in greater accomplishments.

Coaching can be expanded beyond individuals to groups. I frequently coach work teams on project development, offering tele-classes and coaching sessions for groups of individuals seeking personal and professional growth. We use a conference call or telebridge, allowing people from a variety of locations to call in, facilitating goal-setting, decision-making, barrier identification and brainstorming. This helps people see patterns of peak performance. Coaching can enhance and further develop those abilities; it is similar to the training of a great athlete. Remember, even Tiger Woods has a coach. It also gives us a chance to look for patterns of inefficiency or breakdown, which of course we want to reframe and replace with more productive actions.

Ideally, coaching is focused on meeting the agenda of the individual. Under organizational coaching circumstances, a manager or supervisor may set the agenda. Having an outside coach facilitating the “management goals” is often how organizations initiate a coaching program. Having an objective third party can be quite effective. These programs work with rising company stars, as well as with employees who are struggling with their performance or work/life balance concerns.

Organizations have another option—using managers as coaches. Managers who have good communication and people skills can be very effective in coaching their staff or the staff of other company managers. A word of caution here: some managers who try to coach a member of their team have a fear-based management style. What they end up doing is just telling people to improve without taking the necessary time to develop weekly goals or coaching them on how to meet them. They often miss the key ingredients of listening, discovery, dealing with logistics and providing the solid tools necessary for success.

To start a coaching program in your organization, begin with these steps.

1. Decide to invest in your organization and start

a coaching program.

2. Start small.

3. Recruit interested individuals who would like to be coached or need to be.

4. Decide if you want to hire an outside coach or develop your own inside coaching program (or a combination of both).

5. For inside coaching, select your coaches, define the coaching process, train your coaches and then match them with those seeking a coach.

6. To hire a coach, develop criteria describing your coaching needs, send out a proposal, conduct interviews, and then select coaches or a coaching organization.

7. Review and evaluate the program, then make adjustments.

Then enjoy the quantum leap in your organizational productivity!

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Contact Katherine Carol at 888-706-0176 or kcarol@starnetdial.net and mention coaching in the subject line. More information is available at www.tangoresults.com

International Federation of Coaches: www.coachfederation.org

Coach University: www.coachu.com

Katherine Carol is a speaker, coach, consultant, and author. She works with organizations and people to weed out broken belief systems and performance patterns which limit success and future security. Katherine has worked with organizations across the country for the past twelve years.

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