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What is coaching?
Coaching is one of the most important tools in the arsenal of a good leader. It can mean lots of things to different people, but whatever coaching means to you, it is one of the most valuable tools for personal and professional development. It is also something that nearly all of us are familiar with, and will have experienced during our lives, though often we may not realise it.
For professionals – particularly for leaders – it is most commonly used to develop individuals, groups, and teams in a particular skill or knowledge area. This comes about through the encouragement of an individual to identify and acknowledge areas for improvement, and to guide them through the process of developing new and achievable goals based around these.
It differs from mentoring in that coaching focuses on actively intervening during specific coaching sessions to help the individual develop the most suitable action plan for results, whereas mentoring consists of a longer period of shadowing and light-touch role-modelling or guidance.
There are a number of specific attributes required to develop the talents of a good coach:
A successful coach will not always be looking to intervene and push their plan and agenda on clients. A good coach should instead be looking to listen to those who have placed their trust in them, to truly understand their situation, and to gently guide them based on their needs and wants. The only interventions should be open questions which allow the individual under their guidance to think and understand their scenario, and what needs to be done to destroy any roadblocks.
Linked to listening, a good coach should be capable of stepping into another individual’s shoes based on what they have heard, and to be able to understand and interpret all the factors which have influenced their situation and decisions so far, and how they will affect them in the near future.
One reason a coach is often hired is to address deficits in motivation and confidence. A great coach will encourage and will be able to inspire action and change in those under their guidance. It is all about creating the desire to make the necessary changes for the individual to achieve their goals, and sometimes they may just need that little push to get them over the start line.
A good coach is aware of their coaching style, strengths, and weaknesses. They must be aware of how they appear as a coaching figure to the individual under their guidance in order to adapt their approach as best as they can to suit their needs.
For new coaches, and even experienced ones, there are a number of models which can be used as a framework for 1-to-1 or group coaching sessions. Some of these include the popular GROW model (goal, reality, opportunity, way forward) and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which focuses on challenging emotional or psychological barriers that may be hindering progression. Both of these, and the majority of other coaching models focus on the coach giving power back to the individual – asking open-ended questions that provoke deep and thoughtful responses. These ideas and concepts are nurtured by the coach, but it is with the individual to develop upon them and to find potential solutions to their problems.
Other useful coaching models:
This section focusses on the various coaching models that have been described, and their application in a workplace scenario to improve individual and team performance.