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Employee Coaching: Does it Work?

Robert Teal, CCP, CBP

Robert Teal

Employee Coaching: Does it Work?

By Robert Teal, CCP, CBP

Employee coaching takes on many faces and many roles: training and development, performance improvement, and advancement and additional responsibility. All of us are recipients and purveyors of coaching, often without realizing that it is even occurring. Although many organizations have formal coaching and development programs directed at a select group of high performers, coaching takes place every day with virtually every employee. Coaching should not be confused with a structured training program or a “command and control” management style, the latter being best described as check your brains at the door.

Consider something as simple as an exchange between an employee and their manager about the style of an upcoming presentation and its audience. Within that exchange are both explicit and implicit coaching cues and signals. While signals dealing with the topic, time, date, place, audience members, length, format, and roles may be very unambiguous; cues such as the tone of the manager’s speech and body language can and do send very subtle clues which the employee will implicitly recognize as directions. Both parties may be completely unaware of these faint cues; nevertheless, they are communicating desired and undesired behaviors. The analogy is similar to a baseball bat vs. a flyswatter, both may get the job done, but the bat is going to leave a lot more collateral damage than the flyswatter.

As with nearly all behaviors, coaching skills must be acquired; and make no mistake, coaching skill. Which means that leaders i.e., typically managers, must be developed into coaches. Notice that I did not say managers must be taught. A person can be taught to ride a bike, but a world class cyclist is developed. Coaching skills are best acquired inside a broad based management development program designed to address the more global needs of both the individual and the organization.

Coaches can be formal leaders within the organization or they can be informal leaders in peer-to-peer relationships or even subordinate to a superior. All of us have encountered the long tenured department employee who “informally” runs their department, takes the new employee under their wing, shows the new guy or gal the ropes, and is the one person who knows why, when, and by whom a decision was made. Sometimes these departmental coaches are subtle in their approach to coaching, sometimes they are not. In any case, developing coaching skills should not be left to chance; rather the organization should clearly articulate the role of a coach, regardless of how formal or informal the role is.

The following excerpts are taken from “Coach’s / Manager’s Role”, outlining the desirability of a Little League manager and coach:

• Must be a leader.
• A position of trust and responsibility.
• Formative period of an employee’s development.
• Have understanding, patience and the capacity to work with employees.
• Able to inspire respect.
• Shapes the physical, mental and emotional development of employees.
• Something more than just a teacher.
• Interest in the game, a desire to excel.
• Coaches are sources of inspiration.

Does this sound like a coach? Of course it does. Being a coach is not always simple, easy or even rewarding. At times the team may lose and no one likes to lose. But a good coach will rally their team and prepare for the next game.

Does employee coaching work? Of course it does.

About the author:

Robert Teal, CCP, CBP is a Senior Human Resource leader with demonstrated ability to deliver cost effective solutions in the areas of research, design, implementation, communication, & administration of employee compensation and benefit plans and HR/Payroll systems. A results-oriented professional who skillfully manages interpersonal relationships and partners with a diversity of staff from the Board of Directors to line managers in the insurance, consulting, and healthcare industries.

Read Robert Teal’s blog: Trends in Total Employee Rewards.

Read Bob’s articles on Hook, Line & Sinker.