Think back to the people in your life who have recognized your potential and used their talents to help you discover and shape your own. When a coach like this is present in the workplace, his or her influence can have a profound impact on the professional development of the entire team as well as the individuals within it. Most people would rather work under a manager who behaves as a coach than one who dictates and directs from above.
Coaching your employees is an important step in developing an internal culture that supports the customer experience. Sometimes coaching can happen “on the fly” when learning opportunities present themselves, but formal coaching sessions provide a great benefit to employees, who get the chance to ask questions, practice skills, and set goals against which they can measure their progress over time.
CSP believes strongly in the power of a good coach, so we’re here to offer you a little coaching ourselves on how to effectively guide the development of your team.
The Measurements of a Good Coach
There is no exact blueprint for a good coach, as each coach will have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some distinct qualities that good coaches have in common.
As you read this list, ask yourself how you measure up against each of these qualities and identify which areas could use more of your attention. If you have been receiving coaching yourself and feel like it could be more effective, this list might give you a window to a constructive conversation with your mentor to improve the relationship.
1. A good coach is self-aware.
To understand oneself, one’s coaching style, and how it is perceived and received by employees, is a critical first step to becoming a valuable and effective coach. Self-awareness is a journey unto itself, so we’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.
2. A good coach brings specific and well-defined issues to the attention of others.
Being unspecific about problem areas, or failing to bring them up with the appropriate parties, suggests a reluctance to affect positive change and a lack of leadership.
3. A good coach prepares for each session with information, examples, ideas, etc., and is ready for discussion.
Coaching sessions should be scheduled in advance, and the coach should have a solid agenda for each session that lays out the mission for the day. Without structure, the coaching session can devolve into a casual conversation with no real substance or direction.
4. A good coach treats individuals as partners in the organization, encouraging their input and trusting them to carry out assignments.
Some coaches are fans of “tough love,” while others are more lenient, but what all good coaches have in common is respect for their mentees. Contempt and resentment have no place in an effective coaching relationship, and only breed further conflict.
5. A good coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of his or her employees.
Much like the coach of a sports team, he or she knows how to tap into the individual strengths of employees to get the most out of them and to get the greatest amount of productivity from the team, collectively and individually.
6. A good coach makes expectations clear at the beginning of the coaching session.
Both the coach and the employee must have a sense that this meeting has a distinct purpose, and must agree on what that purpose is, for the session to proceed smoothly.
7. A good coach allows enough time to adequately discuss issues and concerns.
Blocking out enough time for a solid session, rather than squeezing it in and rushing through, shows respect for the employee’s time and allows them to participate more thoughtfully.
8. A good coach seeks out ideas and makes those ideas part of the solution.
Take it as a red flag if a coach is not willing to hear ideas, suggestions, or thoughts from other members of the team. A coach is there to serve the employees, not for the employees to serve his or her ego.
9. A good coach listens to others and tries to understand their points of view.
Rather than assigning blame or delivering unhelpful criticism, he or she allows the employee to explain things from the other side, which can often uncover the root of a misunderstanding or miscommunication.
10. A good coach expresses encouragement and optimism when both easy and difficult issues are discussed.
Sometimes an issue can be the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s the coach’s job to make this issue less intimidating by modeling a constructive attitude that brings the team together to address it.
11. A good coach directly asks for a commitment to solutions that have been agreed upon.
Coaches can’t be wishy-washy about their expectations. If the employee isn’t held accountable for improving, it becomes a waste of everyone’s time to continue coaching.
12. A good coach provides the resources, authority, training and support necessary for others to carry out solutions.
Coaching doesn’t end when the session ends. It is up to the coach to follow through with any additional guidance the employee might need to move forward.
13. A good coach offers support and assistance to those he or she is coaching to help them implement change and achieve desired goals.
Professional development is a team effort. It’s usually not wise to simply cut the employee free after a session and expect him or her to achieve everything on their own.
14. A good coach follows up on coaching sessions in a timely manner.
It’s all too easy for coaching to fall down the priority ladder among all the other demands of a manager’s day-to-day job duties. At the end of each coaching session, it’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule the next one, and to hold to that commitment when the time comes around.
15. When solutions do not turn out as expected, a good coach proactively helps to define alternative actions.
If at first the employee does not succeed, it could be that there was a misunderstanding, or it could be that the original solution was a mismatch for that particular employee. A good coach is open to having a backup plan (or two).
The theme running beneath many of these qualities is this: When coaching is done in the spirit of mutual respect, the rewards and benefits for your employees and your customers are endless. What is important is to establish a positive coaching relationship between the coach and the employees that incorporates all parties’ strengths.
More articles like this one can be found in our STARS library, available to current CSP clients as part of our full-service delivery. Contact us to find out how we support effective coaching and training in pursuit of the optimal customer experience.