Dessy Ohanians, Managing Director of Corporate and Certificate Programmes at the London School of Business and Finance – Executive Education argues that coaching and mentoring are a style of management that has become more prevalent during the last few years
Coaching and mentoring as a management style has become more prevalent in the last few years and not without reason. Companies and leaders are realising the benefits of adopting this style not just for the organisation but for the individuals being coached as well.
The growing appreciation for professional coaching has turned this resource into an industry with an estimated worth of $2 billion globally. It is reported that there are over 60,000 professional coaches practising around the world today. However, you do not necessarily need the services of a professional coach in order to incorporate coaching techniques into your leadership style.
Basic coaching techniques used on a daily basis have a profound effect on individual performance and a company’s financial results. The International Coaching Federation reports that 80% of people coached at work reported increased self-confidence. 70% recorded improved performance which is why it is no wonder companies are encouraging coaching as a leadership practice.
To understand this, it is important to clarify the difference between coaching and mentoring. The first difference is in time scale; coaching tends to be short- term whilst mentoring is a longer-term process. Coaching tends to focus on specific skills and is more operational and task-oriented. By contrast, mentoring tends to focus on relationship building and is more development driven. In addition, the immediate manager of the person being coached plays a crucial part in the coaching process while in mentoring they tend to be involved but in a more indirect way.
Coaching takes time, requiring more input than just giving instructions to your team. Time must be dedicated to the coaching activity, wherever it is done through a dedicated coaching session or incorporated into the management style and permeated through day-to-day activities. Time must then be set aside for team members to go through the thought-process to absorb the new points of view and conclusions reached. Finally, time must be taken away from leaders attending to other strategic priorities and their own responsibilities.
The cost could be another issue if external coaches are used for this activity.
Despite these short-term disadvantages, the long-term benefits could vastly outweigh the sacrifices. The benefits of coaching begin with the individual being coached. As the objective of coaching is to guide people to reach their own conclusions and find their own solutions, each employee will gradually build their self-confidence to the point of independence. Employees will depend less on their managers, thus freeing up the manager’s time to deal with their other duties.
Coaching not only helps improve the quality of learning but the employees gain skills for life that contribute towards their overall personal and professional development.
The benefits for the organisation are even more measurable and tangible. The modern organisation has realised that the real value of their operations is not solely obtained through their tangible assets, but the people employed and the knowledge, ideas and inspiration that can be garnered from them. A company’s success is measured not just through revenue and profit, but also through factors such as customer satisfaction which can only be achieved when employees possess the right skills and motivations. Coached employees have demonstrated greater creativity as they are able to produce their own solutions, whilst greater employee engagement results in lower staff turnover and improved productivity. Companies, where leaders use coaching-style engagement, have also reported lower development and training costs alongside a greater skilled workforce and better use of people, skills and resources.
Leadership skills are typically associated with grand strategic decisions but, in reality, building relationships is a core skill of great leaders. If you want to start implementing some coaching techniques, here are some practical steps to get you started:
- Start a coaching conversation – Put on your ‘coaching hat’ and make clear you are not talking to them as a leader from whom they should expect directions and instructions but that you are entering a coaching mode. That will set the right expectations and the learning can begin.
- Allow for self-evaluation – The opportunity to identify and correct one’s own errors is valuable as it presents the employee with their own learning curve. Self-evaluation thus enables them to see how they’ve developed and this skill is vital over time.
- Give feedback – A primary aspect of good coaching is providing feedback. Well-delivered and timely feedback (allowing for self-evaluation) provides people with a personable summary of ways to improve, praising positives when achieved and advising on how to correct errors. The famous “sandwich technique” of giving positive-negative-positive feedback is proven to not work particularly well, so avoid this.
- Build rapport – Coaching and knowing what questions to ask to create a personal connection can allow for a rapport to build quicker and more effectively. It will help employees improve their own rapport building skills.
- Adapt –All employees are different and their requirements for coaching will vary accordingly. Be ready to adapt your techniques in all the above areas to best connect with them.