What is Coaching?

Most of us have experienced coaching in one form or another, usually in sports. The coach is the one who trains us in technique, skill and strategy in an effort to elevate our level of performance.  The goal is to achieve certain desired outcomes such as winning more games.  In this arena, coaching is the primary responsibility of “the coach”.

Here is a Coaching definition:

“Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.”  – Wikipedia    

Is this how it is applied in a business setting?

My observation is that, in many companies, coaching is a role that’s applied “as we go.” In other words, it’s not formal or planned. There generally isn’t a formal process applied to how business leaders coach their team members and how much of their time should be allocated specifically to coaching.

And yet, aren’t people the most important asset a business has?

How do you know when you’re a good coach?

If your team follows you because they want to, not because they need to, you’re probably doing a good job developing/coaching them.

Leaders are privileged with the opportunity to have a positive impact on the career trajectory of the people they lead. When a team feels as though their leader or manager has their interests in mind, that their leader cares about their success and career development, when mutual respect is present, the team is more likely to “want” to perform for their leader. Loyalty is established and higher levels of performance are attainable.

The environment with your team should always have a certain level of discomfort. You should be helping identify where your team can grow and develop and they should feel uncomfortable continuously trying to grow and develop. If your team is comfortable in their role, you’re likely not doing enough as a coach with your people.

In John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership he attributes the success of a leader to his/her ability to develop other leaders. You reach the pinnacle of your leadership career when you’re able to develop leaders to be able to develop other leaders. The foundation of this is in the ability to suspend judgement, and genuinely develop quality relationships with the people you lead.

So, what is coaching? For me, great coaching begins with asking more questions to really understand how your coachee thinks and to identify possible coaching opportunities. Great conversations are usually the result of asking great questions.

It also requires great active listening skills to be present in the conversation. Too often our team comes to us with an opportunity or challenge and as leaders we’re motivated to leverage our experience to solve the opportunity, to provide the answers.

Leaders who excel at coaching and people development use these opportunities to understand how their people think. They allow their coachees to have a role in developing a solution. In doing this, they’re also provided visibility into how they can develop the individual to better handle these opportunities in the future.

Now, let’s take a look at Sales Coaching,

The best coaches hold regularly scheduled 1:1’s, say monthly to talk about progress, effort and strategy. You can talk about opportunities in the pipeline and challenges they experience. This is a great way to learn more about how your team is approaching their job and you both can identify ways to do it better, more efficiently or effectively.

Sales Call Observation is another great opportunity for coaching. As a sales leader, when was the last time you went on a call with one of your sales people and you didn’t have an active role in the conversation with the customer or prospect? If you really want to identify how you can help your team develop in their role, observe them doing their work. It’s in the “moment of truth” that you will get the necessary visibility you need on how you can best serve them. It can be pretty eye opening.

Have you applied critical thought to your approach to coaching? Do your people follow you because they want to or because they have to?

Perhaps you should ask your team how they view you as a coach? I would be interested in the feedback you get.

I welcome the chance to discuss this further. I believe managers are the leverage point for most any company. It’s in how they develop their teams that will provide organic sustainable growth for the organization.

This is the first in a series of posts related to coaching in leadership, most specifically sales coaching.

Thank you.