Dr. Nathan Hurwitz is a tenured Associate Professor in Theatre and has three books in print, two textbooks and a coffee table book.
Brittany manages a department within a large department store. While she hits her numbers every quarter, she could still improve her department's profile and profitability, especially at a time when the store is comparing its brick and mortar stores to their online presence. One employee on Brittany's team could stand to improve her clienteling. Brittany realizes that this is the time for individualized coaching.
The top 10 percent of any team doesn't need coaching, and the bottom 10 percent requires more attention than coaching. Coaching is not problem-solving; problem-solving focuses on fixing what doesn't work, while coaching takes what already works and improves it.
Coaching can be initiated from either side. While Brittany might suggest to one of her employees that they use coaching, the employee can also approach Brittany about coaching in order to develop a particular set of skills. While there are several models of coaching, one of the most specific and useful is the seven-step model. Let's take an in-depth look at this process.
7 Steps to Effective Coaching
1. Initiate approach:
Coaching can be initiated from either side, but it has to be a mutual effort with equal buy-in. It's vitally important that the coach creates a tone of collegiality and maintains it throughout the process. This will establish an effective coaching environment.
2. Set goals:
Specific goals can be elusive and hard to articulate. It is vital to differentiate between the problem and the goal. Amy, one of Brittany's team members, wants to improve the effectiveness of her clienteling. She spends time with key customers but often fails to make ongoing connections with them. After discussing Amy's concerns and Brittany's aspirations for her, they agree that while Amy is personable and makes a strong first impression on new potential clients, she stumbles when articulating issues of quality and manufacturing details on higher-end products. Together, Brittany and Amy agree that their specific goals for these coaching sessions will be Amy's immediate knowledge of these facts and her ability to articulate them.
3. Establish coaching methodology:
What are Brittany and Amy's responsibilities to each other? Brittany and Amy agree to a series of four action steps:
- Amy agrees to study the spec sheets on each of the higher end items carried by her department.
- Brittany agrees to refresh her knowledge on the material so that she can quiz Amy, not as a test of Amy's success or failure, but as a tool to help Amy discover what material she knows, what she doesn't, and where she needs to focus.
- Brittany's quizzes will be in the form of hypothetical customer questions about the items, allowing Amy to practice verbalizing these facts in specific customer-based scenarios.
- Brittany agrees to call weekly 10-minute departmental info sessions at which Amy will go through all of these items for the rest of the team, in the form of a 5-minute presentation and a 5-minute question and answer period, allowing Amy to practice articulating the facts, and then rephrasing them to clear up any miscommunications.
4. Develop coaching schedule:
In collaboration, the two agree on a schedule for each piece of the work to be done as well as for follow-up meetings to assess the effectiveness of Amy's steps.
5. Identify and specify benefits:
By the time the coaching is finished, both Amy and Brittany will walk away having grown in certain areas. This growth will be most comprehensive when articulated, either at the outset of the coaching period or along the way.
6. Establish quantify benchmarks:
How is progress to be measured? In their action steps, both Amy and Brittany study independently and then come together for the quizzes. The first set of quizzes might allow note cards. By the third set of quizzes, Amy should be off the cards. If she's not, Brittany will help her develop mnemonic devices to remember the information. Once memorized, the info sessions can begin. When Amy's delivery of the information becomes so clear that the questions are negligible, Amy is ready to bring her new skills to the department. Her final benchmark is to increase her client book by establishing four new clients each month.
7. Review and refocus:
At every step along the way, both parties need to review what they have accomplished so far, reassess needs, and refocus the rest of the coaching to accommodate for any change in needs, goals, or accomplishments.
Mistakes and Suggestions
One of the most common coaching errors is focusing on a larger problem rather than achieving specific goals. In Amy's case, the goal is to increase her understanding of the company material and communicate it to clients. The result of achieving her goals is the ability to increase her client list. Finding the root cause is the most important first step.
To establish appropriate milestones, one of the most important tools is a clear coaching contract that spells out each step of the session. Plenty of templates exist online and can be downloaded to create a contract, but it's important to include the goals and the responsibilities of the employee and the coach. This contract should include the specific goals and outcomes, each party's activities, the benchmarks and milestones, measures of success, and an outline of dates for each step.
Coaching is a useful tool for both managers and employees. The keys to its success are clarity, specificity, and a willingness to be transparent about improvement areas, which can sometimes be a touchy subject.
Individualized coaching is a great way to enhance employee skills that may need improving. Coaching is not needed for the top 10 percent of your team and is not efficient enough for the bottom 10 percent, but it can be tremendously useful for the 80 percent in the middle. The most important thing about coaching is to establish a specific plan. The seven-step coaching plan is broken down into the following steps:
- Initiate approach
- Set goals
- Establish coaching methodology
- Develop coaching schedule
- Identify and specify benefits
- Quantifiable benchmarks
- Review and refocus
It is important to start with a coaching contract in order to establish goals, responsibilities, action steps, benchmarks, and target dates.
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