Back in 2012 three business professors decided to hold a small experiment. They chose three restaurants and set up coaching programs for their employees. Alongside, they hired several mystery shoppers to check the restaurants’ performance before, during and after coaching took place. To cut a long story short, the experiment showed that the restaurants’ effectiveness skyrocketed during coaching sessions.
Many more studies have been conducted both before and after this particular one, all confirming that coaching is a pretty darn good thing for businesses. We talked to Clara Bodin, HR Director for Telia Sonera Eurasia and HR advisor to Beetroot with 15+ years of experience, and Beetroot co-founder Gustav Henman to tackle the nuts and bolts of effective coaching.
Why coaching is important
Before jumping into explanations, let’s figure out what coaching actually is. Unlike the standard Wikipedia definition, we think that coaching is a tool to distribute ownership of responsibility. By asking a coachee the right questions you help them develop personally and professionally. And get a better understanding of their strengths and pitfalls that they were unaware of.
Higher productivity, loyalty and better retention rates are only the starting block of positive things that coaching can bring to your company’s table. But the coolest parts about it is probably its ability to balance out a desire to be good to people and a common entrepreneur’s urge to develop the business.
“These two things blend together naturally,”—Gustav says—“If you foster people’s development, of course, it will affect company’s productivity at some point.” Clara agrees, saying that “People are the backbone of any business—if you are not interested in them, you will lose profitability in the long run. Coaching creates engagement and engagement means that people will thrive at work. That brings about positive business results in a natural way”.
Higher productivity, loyalty and better retention rates are only the starting block of positive things that coaching can bring to your company’s table.
What effective coaching looks like
Let’s make it clear from the start—these tips can’t replace coaching training, but they can make your coaching session with your in-house, nearshored or outsourced teams much more efficient.
- Your job is to ask, not to give answers. Every coaching process starts with defining a problem that a coachee has. Afterwards, you only ask questions. Gustav explains, “With classic coaching, the main focus is always on a coachee. You, as a coach, shouldn’t give recommendations, neither should you have an agenda or think yourself. The only thing you need to do is to ask open questions that “hand the ball back” to the coachees and help them find the right answers”.
- Regularity. At first, holding coaching sessions might seem less important than, say, doing some actual work. But you might eventually change your opinion, seeing how coaching changes your team, making them more self-aware and reflective. To see this happening make sure these sessions weave throughout your calendar. “It’s crucial to have regular sessions—every two weeks or so,”—Clara says—“In between sessions, you’ll have enough time to determine challenges to work through and tune-in on an open dialogue with the coach”.
- Make it a two-way process. It’s definitely easy to see how coaching benefits a coachee and a company. But if you give it a good hard look, you’ll realize that coaches also benefit from it. “When coaching someone, you receive experience from these sessions,”—Gustav explains—“By finding new ways to arrange the session, by listening and empathizing you develop your own skills and become closer to the concept of emotionally intelligent, sustainable leader”.
- Build trust. Coaching is still stigmatized from stereotyping. There are people who associate it with punishment, believing that invitation to a session means that they work poorly. Breaking through this wall of mistrust is not an easy thing to do. Clara recommends to “take it nice and slow in the beginning and start with neutral questions”. She says that you have to show people you’re not there to spy on them or blame them, you just want to talk. Gustav says, “Before starting a session define the nature of your relationship with a coachee. In hierarchical organizations managers and team members usually, have parent-child type of relationships. But for a productive session, you have to develop an adult-to-adult type of cooperation, where both the coach and the coachee are grown up people, discussing their problems on equal terms”.
- Rock the boat. All of us would probably want to have a nice, warm talk with our managers in the middle of a busy day. But that’s not what coaching is about. Although it doesn’t aim to put coachees in hot water, it still has to challenge them in some way. Depending on individual peculiarities of coachees, choose a way to push them forward and make sure you don’t beat around the bush during sessions.
- Individual approach for everyone. “People are all on very different levels in personal maturity and pre-perception”—Clara says—“So even if the coaching questions are identical, they might need to be asked and put forward in a different order and tempo depending on the individual”. If you are struggling to understand, which order and tempo you should choose with your coachee, follow Gustav’s advice and just ask them about that. “I think it is important to simplify things. Ask your coachee how direct you can be on a scale from 1 to 10. It’s a bold move but it can help you lay a foundation for trust”.