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Coaching is increasingly becoming popular and effective in the field of human capital – learning and development. For managers, coaching has become an effective tool in harnessing and supporting their staff while for Trainers it is implemented to coach different individuals with varied needs in both aspects of work and life.
The term coaching has become a buzzword of sorts. Everyone mentions it when indulging in a conversation for skills development or training. For example, professionals in the learning and development marketplace are asked for training in coaching skills and to assist organizations to introduce coaching themes. Moreover, line managers are reminded of coaching being their most important role in an organization. Trainers are also requested to coach individuals from time to time.
Coaching can take various forms – Life Coaching (personal needs and development), Business Coaching (business-specific issues) to Executive Coaching (senior people in an organization or professional field).
In its best sense, coaching is the process of helping an individual to enhance or improve their performance for a set of task(s) by reflecting on how they apply a specific skill and knowledge.
Coaching as a Development Tool
Coaching is concerned with awakening development in individuals beyond where they currently are. Development in coaching refers to a continuous process of growing and learning; by developing, we continuously become more than we were.
As much as a Business Plan or a Strategic Plan is crucial to the development of the organization, or skills being vital for survival of an individual in the business world, similar emphasis weighs for development in coaching. These individuals need to adapt to the rapidly changing, and increasingly globalized world of ours – whether they adapt by opting out or by embracing change.
Coaching is one tool that can be used to assist others develop. Hence, the primary objective is to support the change process and if utilized well, coaching should be able to reduce the impact of change whilst maximizing personal and professional scope of improvement for growth.
The Role of the Coach
The role of the coach is similar to that of person guiding or facilitating without being dominant. It is imperative that the coach ensures that it is the client’s issue, which is of utmost priority. Moreover, the coach when necessary may make suggestions or provide information relevant to the agenda, which are mutually agreed so as not to impose a sudden idea or rationale of thought that can cause conflict. However, the coach is not held responsible for the changes proposed and agreed, but should ensure a monitoring and evaluation framework to create and support the positive change intended. Assisting the client to stay focused and keeping in check the surroundings also form part of the coaching function.
The coach should also ‘walk the talk’. If you are coaching colleagues at work, they will be keenly observing and making judgments about you. Hence, you need to portray an image of a role model for the values, norms and behaviors that your client is aspiring to. Fundamentally, a coach has to learn to be tolerant and patient in understanding and formulating a coaching model to affect change.
Coaching & Training
One development tool that is often confused with coaching is training.
Training is the process by which someone learns a new skill or acquires new segment of knowledge. At the end of training, the individual may be able to do the job, but may not achieve the required standard at all times. Training can be formal (e.g.. training courses) or informal (on-the-job).
True learning occurs when the learner has transferred it from the training environment into the ‘real world’, and made a substantial change in behavior or way of doing things. This is where coaching comes in.
Coaching helps people to reflect on their performance in a specific area with an informed helper (the Coach). It is about assisting individuals to implement their learning within a given context such as the workplace or personal life and therefore improve their performance to take it to the next level.
Coaching does not deal with teaching something new. The primary objective of coaching is to use available skills and knowledge to maximize performance. It is for this very reason that many trainers struggle to define the difference between coaching and training.
It is also worthwhile to note that training and coaching often overlap. This may be realized when the learner (coachee) does not have necessary skills or background knowledge. At this juncture, coaching has to be halted for training to begin. Both training and coaching are the backbone the continuum of development.
Benefits of Coaching
Coaching is a person-centered activity. Working in this theme encourages the individual to embrace positive change whilst making him or her feel valued, which directly increases their motivation and performance at what they want to do.
Coaching is a flexible approach – it can not only be used to address one-off needs as and when they arise but also be implemented within organizations where at times it is difficult due to cost or logistical reasons to take groups of staff away for off-the-job formal training. This in turn causes the organization to benefit from performance-related development in a cost-effective and flexible way.
For individuals, coaching enables to gain practical and realistic help to achieve their full potential and work on their areas of weakness. In this scenario, it is vital noting that coaching is targeted with a specific focus on encouraging practical development whereas training tends to broader and may require follow-up at times.
Researching with the available literature in coaching, the skills of a coach, which comprise of the art of listening, asking questions and summarizing key points, are crucial to an effective coaching session. Despite the skills of the coach being indispensable, other areas that need to be considered while coaching are, Where do I start when asked to coach? How long will it take? What methods can I employ? Will I create a positive impact?
As the golden rule of coaching commands, “In coaching, don’t expect to be perfect but to be ‘enough’.”
The Coaching Handbook: An Action Kit for Trainers & Managers, Thorpe & Clifford, Kogan Press, 2003.
Nabeel Hassanali is a Coach, Trainer and Chief Executive of Genesis Consult Ltd (www.genesisconsult.net). He can be reached at nabeel.hassanali [at] genesisconsult.net