Financial Education for Securities, Banking, & Insurance Professionals.

Coaching in the Workforce: What and Why?

Gerald Herbison, MSM, ChFC®, CASL®, CFP®, CLF®
Associate Director, CLF® Program
Assistant Professor, Management Studies

More and more we find that today's leaders are moving to a coaching model. As employee's expectations of the workplace are changing, the command and control method of supervision is slowly dying. Employees, especially younger employees, want to be an involved part of the entire process, not just a cog in the machine. A well–developed coaching dynamic allows employees to take greater ownership of their individual role as a contributing member of the team.If you ask 100 people to define coaching you will receive 100 different answers, but there are commonalities that exist. Many reflect that coaches care, support and listen. Coaching does not, however, remove accountability from the process. Accountability becomes a community responsibility, with employees taking greater ownership of their own results as well as for the results of their teams.

Good coaches know the motivational drivers and personal skills of each unique individual. The goal is to help the follower find his or her own best way. There is no one–size–fits–all methodology to coaching. Additionally, respected coaches require self–confidence, because they must be willing to let loose the reigns of management. In business, coaches ask questions and allow followers to formulate their own conclusions and courses of action.

In addition, great coaches will even sit back and allow a person to make a mistake that the coach knows is coming, knowing that making mistakes is one of the most effective methods of learning and development. Another benefit of allowing employees to make mistakes – without punishment – is the increased willingness to take chances that can benefit the organization. A May 19, 2010 article in Business Week, by Frank Kern, even reports that CEOs are seeking creativity, rather than just operational effectiveness, from the workforce. The article implies that leaders who discipline employees aggressively for making mistakes kill creativity, simply because employees find that the easiest way to avoid punishment is to fly under the radar.

Mutual trust is also a critical component of a successful coaching relationship and the trust must go both ways. When asked to define the characteristics of a trusting relationship, the two most common answers given by respondents are "truth" and "consistency". Coaches must build up an account of trust that can be drawn upon during periods of turmoil. If employees trust the leader because the leader has a demonstrated history of trustworthiness, the leader develops the ability to say, "I really need your help on this, but I can't tell you exactly what is going on," and get commitment.

Coaching isn't easy; it takes time and patience. It often becomes second nature to tell an employees to do something, knowing that they will probably do it as part of his or her job. The benefit of coaching is a relationship where the leader can demonstrate how the task will fit into the employee's own, self–stated work plan. People will work harder, do better work and do it faster if they can see how the work benefits them and how it contributes to the overall goals of the organization. In an ever–changing workplace, coaching is among the best methods of building the mutually beneficial relationship necessary to thrive in today's competitive environment.

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