Leader Volume 8, Number 8
to Effective Coaching
Caruth and Ms. Handlogten are principals, Human Resources
Management Systems in Rockwall, Texas (email: Dcaruth@aol.com).
They have published Staffing the Contemporary Organization (Quorum Books, Westport, CT,
All leaders and
managers need to be coaches. Effective coaching is a skill that
requires an understanding of human motivation and behavior as well
as plenty of practice. Your role as coach is to stimulate the
employee to look within himself or herself for the requisite
skills for job performance. You are to help that person learn by
unlocking his or her potential to maximize effectiveness.
performer beyond your own limitations. You should believe that the
person being coached possesses more capability than is currently
exhibited and must think of the person in terms of potential.
The position of
coach has typically been one of power--the coach controlled the
paycheck, promotion opportunities, job security etc. For coaching
to work at its best, however, the relationship between the coach
and the staff member must be one of partnership, trust, safety and
minimal pressure. The paycheck, promotion opportunities and job
security only serve to inhibit the relationship.
accept responsibility for thoughts and actions, their commitments
and performance levels rise. Telling them to be responsible for
something doesn’t make them feel
responsible. To make them feel responsible they must be involved
perceive you as a coach more readily if you behave in the
• Demonstrate a willingness to listen and encourage staff
to express opinions and ideas, even when these opinions and ideas
contradict what you expect or would like to hear.
• If you simply tell employees what to do, you have no
assurance that they will be able to perform the task without
specific directions in the future. You need to help them think
through a situation and develop a plan of action. When they ask
for advice, suggest two or more options. This enables them to take
responsibility for making the final decision.
• Share your experiences and feelings, thereby creating a
situation in which a staff member feels that you are very
interested. This technique is particularly important for young
people who have limited work experience and don’t know what to
expect in the job situation, or have unrealistic expectations.
Sharing experiences also provides an opportunity to define the
kind of behaviors you expect. Staff will not only be able to learn
more easily, but will also assign greater credibility to what you
are saying. However, you must be careful avoid the role of
"expert" and the arrogance associated with it. An
expert, unfortunately, tends to be seen as the advice-giver and
"sage," who always knows just what to do.
• You should gradually shift responsibility to your staff by
providing greater freedom to act.
responsibility are better raised when you ask sufficient questions
rather than simply telling them something. Asking open-ended
questions (the kinds that start with what, why, when, where, who,
and how) cause people to think. Asking closed-end questions
provide no opportunity for thinking and may even be seen as an
excuse for not thinking. By asking questions, you express respect.
Staff members may not always say "Thank you," but they
will probably feel good about your interest.
How should you
ask effective questions? Here are a few hints:
• Ask questions that require the employee to focus on the
• Ask questions that encourage the person to focus at a higher
order of thinking in order to give accurate and complete answers.
• Ask questions that are descriptive rather than judgmental to
eliminate any risk the individual may perceive in answering them.
• Ask questions that will enable sufficient feedback so that
you can verify the other person’s knowledge level and
coaching will be aided with these three guidelines:
Develop opinions and ideas based on observable facts.
Check the accuracy of information before sharing it. Present ideas
honestly, and don’t manipulate, play games or deceive. Consider
the opinions of others with an open mind. Be accessible when
people need to talk about problems or make recommendations.
Explain the reason for a decision.
This permits staff to know when their ideas and
recommendations have been taken into consideration and why those
ideas were accepted or rejected.
2) Maintain confidence.
Subordinates are expected to identify problems and pinpoint their
own performance shortcomings, developmental needs and career
goals. Don’t betray these trusts. Doing so damages relationships
and the coaching process. Integrity requires that you: (a) correct
in private, (b) don’t discuss problems of one employee with
another, (c) don’t discuss employee problems with other coaches,
(d) keep personnel file information confidential, and (e) keep any
necessary disclosures as confidential as possible.
3) Keep commitments.
Keeping commitments provides not only reinforcement but also
recognition of improvement. People who are recognized for
improving are more likely to continue to improve than those whose
improvement goes unnoticed. Many
managers have an unwritten standard: they expect their
subordinates to be loyal to them. Good coaches know that loyalty
is earned through trust.
In his book Effective
Coaching, Marshall J. Cook maintains that effective coaching
moves an employee from WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) to WIIFU
(What’s in it for us?). In other words, an effective manager
creates a win-win situation for the employee, the organization,
and himself or herself.