Coaching to Improve Performance In many organisations coaching is used effectively as a development activity and in others it takes place on an informal basis with more experienced people helping their colleagues to develop specific skills as the need arises. Effective coaching programmes provide significant benefits for all involved and the organisation because skill development is consistent with the needs of the individual and the job. What is coaching? In its simplest form, coaching is directly concerned with helping individuals to improve their performance through instruction. In many cases it is about helping them to learn rather than teaching them. A good coach enables people to reach their full potential by providing appropriate guidance and support. There is no ‘correct’ coaching style. Effective coaches are flexible, adopting the right approach for the situation and the levels of competence and confidence of the individual being coached. Different styles include: • Directing - telling the person what to do, for example, “Do it this way” or “Watch how I do this and then you do it in the same way”. Useful when the person lacks ability and confidence and the coach needs to appear strong. Following completion of the task it is a good idea to let the individual assess their performance and evaluate progress. • Persuading - coaching the ‘salesman’ way. The coach is selling rather than telling, for example. “This is the best way to do it” and “Can you see why I do it this way?” • Encouraging – helping the individual to learn by getting him/her to think through the ideal method to complete the task. The person must feel ready and able to do this so a certain level of knowledge and skill is necessary. The coach must be available to help the individual to solve any problems encountered otherwise they may lose confidence. The coach may take the individual through the task and skill development process in small steps. • Delegating – briefing the person and observing progress closely to give support when requested. Be available to give support on how to solve problems but do not step in unless asked to do so. Debrief once the tasl has been successfully completed. The debrief is the time when learning is recognised, reinforced and consolidated as both coach and individual evaluate performance. • Counselling – enabling the individual to find the right way to do the task or raise performance by getting them to suggest different options and evaluate these for themselves. The role of the coach tends to become more of a mentor or ‘sounding board’ at times. One key to success is to choose the appropriate style for the situation and to move to another if the existing approach is not working. Many coaching schemes fail because the coach tends to use the one style he/she is most comfortable with. Successful coaching Coaching to improve performance links the process to achievement of agreed workplace goals which provide specific development for the individual. A coaching programme usually operates as a stepped process as set out below: Identification of what needs to be achieved: • Assess current standards of performance. • Agree coaching objectives. • Identify learning needs to meet new performance goals. • Determine how success will be measured. Development of a plan • Agree actions required to achieve objectives • Determine the role of the coach and how progress will be monitored. • Organise suitable learning resources and opportunities. • Set activity schedule and time scales. Action and instruction • Instruct, guide and supervise learning. • Provide feedback and review objectives. Evaluation • Determine how well performance goals have been met. • Measure the gain in learning in the workplace. • Celebrate success. Successful coaching should result in higher levels of workforce competence, commitment and morale. However, opportunities to use coaching to improve performance are not always recognised because of the need to concentrate on task rather than people. Coaching can help to restore the balance and significantly assist organistions to develop the skills they need to achieve current and future business objectives.