Friday, June 12, 2009

The Five Steps Leaders Use to Coach

Resultsj0438409 Bob, the director of the YMCA youth department, called me into his office and said, "Dave, we're going to open a Junior High Team Center next month."
"That's great, where are you going to have it?" I asked.
"YOU are going to have it right here in the youth lobby." He smiled.
"You want me to lead the Junior High Team Center?" I was astonished because I was only a freshman in college.
"Why not? You are already doing a great job with our Leadership Corp Program."
I opened our New Junior High Team Center on Friday night, the next month. It was a big hit for the kids and for me because Bob was an effective coach. How effective is your coaching?
Coaching is strongly associated with employee engagement, retention, and work satisfaction. Yet surveys show that while 79% of organizations report that their leaders coach, only 40% say they hold these leaders accountable with performance coaching measures; and a mere 37% say that their organization has a specific coaching framework or model for their leaders to follow. (1) In other words, leaders have the responsibility to coach but no methodology. Here are five steps to help you implement a consistent and effective coaching framework:

1. Define the vision.

Ask the person you are coaching (coachee) to answer several questions such as, where do they want to be in five years? What type of responsibilities would they like to have? What do they like most about their current job? Do they have any specific goals? Back when I was in my first year of college, I told Bob I wanted to be a director at a YMCA.

2. Assess what is true today.

Use a variety of tools, such as interviews of the coachee's coworkers, 360 feedback, self-assessments... to understand the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. To read a great article about the importance of 360 assessment, click

3. Agree on a plan.

Discuss the difference between their vision and today's reality. Brainstorm different approaches to minimize the gap. When I coach leaders, I focus on helping them lead with their strengths while managing weaknesses. This means creating a laser-focused plan that builds on their strengths and deals with their weaknesses. Bob and I put together a plan that increased my responsibilities, such as running the new teen center.

4. Experiment and practice.

Encourage them to try new behaviors and test different approaches. This stage also works best if you are able to employ those with whom the coachee interacts on a regular to help reinforce their practice. I just don't do 360 assessments when I coach, I use 360 COACHING to help the coachee put the plan into practice. We learn by doing.

5. Conduct after action reviews.

Meet with your coachee on a regular basis to assess their progress against the plan. It is also helpful to begin building systems that help reinforce the new behaviors. For example, Bob had me create checklists for opening and closing the Junior High Team Center in order to grow my organizational skills.
These are the fundamental steps I use to coach executives and to teach leaders how to coach. I encourage you to adapt them to fit your organization. Let me know what methodology you are using or how you adapt this one to help your leaders coach.
Keep on coaching,
PS These are the steps that Bob used 35 years ago. He continues to be a great friend and wonderful coach today.
1. Annette Fillary-Travis and David Lane; Does Coaching Work or Are We Asking the Wrong Question?, ‘International Coaching Psychology Review,’ Volume 1, Number 1, April 2006, 23-36.

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