How to be an everyday great coach

Being an effective coach to your team (or outside your team) has many proven benefits, in terms of performance, engagement, creativity and retention of colleagues. Three things in particular appear to make an effective everyday coach. These are:

  • Mindset – how your approach your role as a coach
  • Skills – your understanding of coaching behaviours and techniques and your ability to apply them
  • Context – how you adapt the coaching you do to the circumstances

The everyday coaching mindset

Characteristics of a coaching mindset include:

  • A genuine interest in wanting colleagues to grow and to succeed. Sometimes this may mean that colleagues outgrow their role and move from your team, but you recognise the value this brings both to Asda and to your own reputation
  • A belief that colleagues can achieve more if you both trust and support them – trust without support, or support without trust, are of little value
  • Clarity of what you and other stakeholders expect from them and credible feedback about how they are performing against those expectations
  • Being willing to delegate, knowing that a colleague might not do the task in the same way you would and accepting that sometimes making mistakes is part of learning. (As a coach, part of your role is to help them make sure that they do learn from mistakes.)
  • Recognition that you, too, can learn from coaching them; and being open to being coached in turn
  • Being as open as possible about your own agenda
  • Making time for coaching. (In a retail environment, doing is instinctively easier than thinking and reflecting. Giving a high priority to coaching time pays dividends in helping colleagues and teams work smarter rather than harder.)

Skills of being an everyday coach

The core skills of an everyday coach include:

  • Appreciative listening – giving colleagues the time to explain issues they face and encouraging them to think them through with you
  • Powerful questioning – asking questions that stimulate insight, open up different perspectives, or simply help them move their thinking on. For the most part, these will be open questions i.e. ones that don’t lead to a yes or no answer. Effective coaches also avoid “queggestions” – questions that are really suggestions in disguise!
  • Helping to set goals – very often people don’t know what they want or need to achieve, or how they feel about different, perhaps competing objectives. As a coach, you can help them clarify what they want and why
  • Compassionate feedback – either giving colleagues direct feedback, or helping them gather feedback that they can relate directly to how they are performing against goals they have set
  • Motivating colleagues to learn – giving them recognition for their learning, helping them understand the benefits of learning and personal change, and creating opportunities to try out new skills and behaviours without fear of censure
  • Letting the coachee work things out for themselves. People are much more likely to commit to change and to own ideas, if they feel they have come to their own decisions. This doesn’t mean you never give advice; but it does mean you are very selective about the occasions when you do.
  • Supporting through setbacks – significant learning is typically a process with emotional ups and downs. The effective coach is observant and ready to intervene with further encouragement at the low points.

The context for coaching

Great everyday coaches:

  • Build an open climate of trust and rapport, where it’s OK to admit weaknesses and mistakes and OK for colleagues to offer support to each other
  • Recognise when a colleague would benefit from and is likely to be open to coaching
  • Adapt their style of coaching to the needs and circumstances of the coachee. In particular, they adapt to the coachee’s level of motivation and ability to learn, and the coachee’s belief in their own ability to influence their performance. With coachees high on both counts, they emphasise challenge and non-directive behaviours; with those low in self-motivation, ability and self-belief, they put more emphasis on support and allow themselves to offer more guidance initially.
  • Act as champions fro coaching within their team, helping colleagues understand how coaching and being coached will improve performance and make work more fulfilling, both for individual colleagues and the team as a whole.

Recommended further reading

  • Whitmore, J (2002) Coaching for Performance: GROWing People, Performance and Purpose, 3rd Ed Nicholas Brealy, London
  • Garvey, G, Stokes, P & Megginson, D (2009) Coaching and Mentoring: Theory & Practice Sage, London

© David Clutterbuck. All rights reserved

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