Monday, July 23, 2012

Coaching For Better Performance - A Definition And Its Implications



Coaching For Better Performance - A Definition And Its Implications

Coaching has become the skill that is spoken about nowadays when the discussion turns to middle management effectiveness. There is nothing wrong with this; it is absolutely correct that the development of staff should sit primarily with their management and they need the tools to do the job.
But like any area of business improvement that comes under the spotlight around the world, it attracts an unreasonable amount of charlatans. There are those out there who would have you believe that attending a seminar, training course or online learning event will give you good coaches and a coaching culture in your business. Of course they are wrong - but pointing out shortcomings is easy. What is more valuable is knowing what is right.
This article looks at a considered definition of performance coaching and the principles under which it becomes a useful tool to change performance.
A definition: "performance coaching is a set of practices, tools and skills which, when used consistently and effectively in an environment that is both conducive and accountable, leads to improved business performance and competitive differentiation.'
Let's deconstruct this definition and look at the implications.
'A set of practices, tools and skills'- managers need to know what to coach as well as how. This means there must be practices that are documented and are observable and measurable. Otherwise we end up with one persons' opinion of how well someone else is doing the job. When was the last time you agreed with an unsubstantiated, subjective criticism of your work? And worse, how do you react when this happens? Tools are needed to ensure uniformity of process, irrespective of the areas being coached. And skilful coaches understand the huge difference between feedback and coaching - feedback tells someone where they went wrong. Coaching helps a person build a plan to maximise strengths and improve areas for development.
'Consistently and effectively' - this is probably the area where most managers need more discipline and companies need to support their management better. What must happen is regular and skilful coaching for everyone. (Recognising that some need more than others, but no one is omitted). Our observation is that managers tend to look upon coaching as a fire-fighting exercise. We coach when performance is an issue. Apart from the fact that this makes coaching stigmatised, resented and unpopular, it misses the point that coaching is a very important tool in the development and retention of talent, not just helping to deal with performance issues. We had one client who was stunned when a top performer left because they got no management time or input. The manager told us, 'she didn't need it.' He was wrong.
'An environment that is conducive and accountable' - a conducive environment means both the physical setting where coaching takes place, as well as the atmosphere and approach created by the coach. You will not get people to be honest and open about the areas they find difficult if they know it is going to be used in evidence against them.
Accountable means that the coach is accountable for making sure the coaching happens and has valid outcomes and that the person being coached is accountable for acting on the agreed areas to work on and develop. And both are accountable for making sure the process is leading to improved business performance. This implies measurement of coaching, changes in performance and changes in results.
What is evident from this deconstruction of the definition is that the management of coaching in the workplace has significantly more impact than the any training. In addition there are a few other principles of good business practice that are particularly applicable to good coaching.
It is said that what gets measured gets done and what gets rewarded gets done properly. We have a client that used a simple 360 degree feedback process to measure the effectiveness of coaching and set a company standard. They also stated that if any manager did not meet the standard, they could not get more than an average rating on their performance appraisal. The change was phenomenal, in both attitude and performance - managers coached well and insisted on being measured accurately. You must embed coaching into HR, induction and training and performance management systems.
We believe that senior management communicate what is important in the company by the questions they ask. All too often the questions are about figures. You can't manage a figure. What you can manage is the quality of the performance that produces the figure. Senior management should get religion about the techniques used to improve people effectiveness and relentlessly ask about how well this is happening.
I founded Prosell Sales Training because I saw the importance of people's potential contribution to a business and also saw how many companies missed the biggest opportunity they were presented with; the challenge to fully engage their people and to achieve high productivity and overall business performance.