Reflections on Workplace Coaching

What does successful coaching look like?

Just as coaches help clients reflect on current performance in order to reach their goals, so too should coaching service providers engage in critical self-analysis to keep themselves on track. From process to people and beyond, recognising priorities and pitfalls makes for more successful and effective coaching programmes.

Mark Walker - DEKRA
Mark Walker, Vice President, DEKRA Organisational Reliability

Assessing workplace coaching

When a coach seeks to improve the performance of a team or individual, in sports or in industry, taking stock and reflecting on the status quo is an important step. It reveals strengths and weaknesses and helps the coach chart a course going forward. Turning a critical eye on coaching itself is likewise beneficial. A critical analysis can identify potential weaknesses as well as strengths in our approach to coaching, ways to make it more effective and to ensure it continues to fulfil its promises over time. Setting the stage for a successful coaching programme, recognising the qualities that make a strong coach and remaining flexible in the face of technological change are all areas we need to consider when we strive to optimise workplace coaching.

Don’t forget diagnostics

Workplace coaching initiated without a comprehensive analysis of a company’s current status is at a decided disadvantage. In the absence of the up-to-date information an assessment provides, coaches will require more time to understand an organisation’s needs and may operate on a trial and error basis as they look for a way forward. A diagnostic tool such as DEKRA’s Culture of Care Diagnostics provides coaches with empirical evidence of the need for change, reliable data sets and a clear vision for the company. When faced with the question, “Why should we do things differently?” a coach can point to the results of an objective, company-wide evaluation as a response. The diagnostic process also furnishes a baseline against which future performance can be measured.

The right person for the job

In the corporate world, a successful coach may or may not have specific certificates and qualifications, and may or may not be an expert in a given technical field. There are qualities, however, that effective coaches share and cultivate. Primary among them is a sincere spirit of curiosity. A curious coach has a healthy respect for what they don’t know, a talent for asking the right questions and a willingness to listen more than talk. Curiosity is also a hallmark of a “growth mindset,” a term popularised by the researcher Carol Dweck, which refers to a belief in one’s ability to develop new skills and improve. A coach with a growth mindset is modelling precisely the characteristics they hope to develop in their coaching partners. On the other hand, those who take on coaching duties believing that they already have all the answers and simply need to impart their knowledge run the risk of behaving more like an instructor than a coach and possibly alienating their partner.

Coaching only works, after all, when based on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. In fact, the best coaches understand they must earn the right to coach by building a strong relationship with their partner.

Stephen Covey’s concept of the “emotional bank account” provides a good metaphor for how this can be done through making “deposits” that include developing an understanding of the other party, keeping commitments and demonstrating personal integrity. This process takes time, and it can’t be rushed, but the payoff is sustainable, verifiable behavioural change.

Matching coaches to clients based on industry experience can be a plus, as is ensuring that coaches develop a range of communication techniques to suit the individuals they are working with, whether c-suite or shop floor. More important than either of these, however, is remembering that the client is an integral part of the solution and that expert coaching allows the recipient of the service to discover the seeds of improvement within themselves. A master coach aids in that discovery, able to promote excellence by communicating the positive, not fixating on the negative.

Innovate wisely

As technology advances, coaches and coaching programmes have choices to make about how to incorporate new tools. DEKRA’s automotive division has developed an innovative, customised coaching solution called I-Coach, a remote coaching tool to support auto sales. We at DEKRA Organisational Reliability have the advantage of learning from our colleagues’ experience as we consider what role technology can play in helping make industry safer and more efficient. While remote coaching may not replace face-to-face interaction, it can be a valuable supplement and an affordable alternative when a full-time coach isn’t practicable.

As long as coaching is understood as a relationship-based endeavour built on trust and respect and best supported with reliable data and effective means of measuring progress, technology may well have a supportive role to play. Going forward, let’s keep nourishing our natural curiosity and growing our mindsets to provide the best and most effective coaching experiences for our clients.

Author: Mark Walker, Vice President, DEKRA Organisational Reliability

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