Introduction to Coaching
is a popular approach to employee development, based on a relationship between
two people, the coach and the individual. The
individual typically wants to improve his or her understanding of a situation,
learn new skills, prepare for new situations, or improve performance areas.
The coach may provide a variety of services to help the individual
improve his or her performance. For
example, the coach may help identify an underlying problem, provide tools that
help the individual understand the problem, suggest activities that will lead to
share insights about the environment in which the individual works, and provide
honest feedback about the quality of performance. Coaching is especially useful during times of significant
change or challenge, when individuals must acquire new skills or adapt to new
When should coaching be used?
There are many approaches to development training and education, new
assignments, mentoring relationships, etc.
Each can be an effective tool when properly used in the right situation.
To determine if coaching is useful in your situation, consider the
the nature of the problem understood?
Often, the nature of an individuals
performance difficulties are not well understood, and coaching is used to
identify manifestations of the problem and explore the root causes.
For example, an executive who works 80 hours a week may have difficulty
accomplishing all of his or her tasks for a week.
A coach can help the executive determine what intrudes on his or her
schedule and prevents the person from achieving desired performance goals.
competency is to be improved?
Some competencies can best be improved by
coaching, others by some other developmental activity.
Coaching often works well for the development of skills that require
feedback on actual behavior but may be less useful when measures of
improvement are not dependent on someone elses evaluation. For example, if an individual needs to acquire financial
management skills, the best solution may be a training course focused on
principles of financial management. In
contrast, if a manager has difficulty getting along with colleagues, a coach,
who can give direct feedback and probe sensitive areas, may be more useful.
Examples of competencies that are often coached
Tact and diplomacy
Working across boundaries
Time management skills
Interpersonal relationship skills
sensitive is the problem?
Although everyone has strengths and weaknesses,
exposing your weaknesses varies in acceptability. While it may be OK to admit that you lack knowledge in an
area to which you have never been exposed, it may not be OK to admit that you
lack the interpersonal skills to build strong business relationships.
Some individuals are resistant to admitting they have any performance
deficiencies. Sometimes, just
exploring the problem is a delicate matter.
For example, an executive who needs assistance evaluating the strengths
and weaknesses of his management team may not want to share information about
others to anyone within his organization and needs assurances that the
information shared is kept confidential.
Coaching often works well when the problem or its resolution is a
learning skills does the individual possess?
Acquiring new skills is a function of learning skills as well as the
motivation to learn. Sometimes a
coach serves simply to help the individual discipline him or herself and spend
time on development activities. Other
times, a coach assists the individual in analyzing a situation and pointing
out the salient elements. Coaching
cannot add much value in situations where the person does not have the raw
capabilities (e.g., intelligence) to succeed.
Job redesign or reassignment is more useful.
Neither is coaching the recommended solution when emotional or
psychological issues are primary (e.g., depression, substance abuse).
In such cases, therapy or mental health counseling is recommended.
motivations does the individual have to participate fully in a coaching
essential requirement for effective coaching is simply the individuals
desire to improve his or her performance and willingness to work at it.
Improving a skill is a challenging task.
Unless the individual is motivated to participate fully in a coaching
relationship and make significant changes, coaching is not likely to succeed.
resources does the individual or organization have?
Because coaching involves an on-going, one on
one relationship, it can be a significant investment. The organization or individual paying for coaching must have
the resources to pay for it.
An individual making major changes in his or her
approach to work must have the support of the organization.
Sometimes, support is in the form of the boss providing detailed
feedback. Other times, the
organization must be willing to accept new approaches to certain activities.
For example, if a manager is being coached to provide detailed
performance feedback to subordinates, even star performers, the culture of the
organization must accept the appropriateness of feedback.
Without organizational support, changes in the individual are unlikely
to be sustained over time.
What makes coaching effective?
can make a difference in peoples performance for three key reasons. First, it
is customized to meet each persons needs, so no time is wasted. Although
books, classes, e-learning, and other approaches may be less expensive, they may
not provide as much value for the learner because they cover a broad content
area and are aimed at a diverse audience. Second, coaching can address the full
spectrum of learning, from insight, motivation, and learning new skills to
accountability and application in the real world. Finally, having a personal
coach provides a relationship built on trust and openness that allows safe
exploration of difficult topics and supports risk-taking in trying new
summary, coaching can be an effective tool for accelerating learning and
dramatically improving performance across a wide range of skills that benefit
both the individual and the organization.