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The art of coaching employees: Strategies for success


Coaching employees is the key to building and maintaining a self-motivated staff. Initially, it will take extra time – the whole teach-a-man-to-fish process versus just catch-a-man-a-fish. But the results are worth the investment.

The better you coach, the more prepared your team will be to achieve their goals. Successful coaching guides employees in the right direction but promotes independent thinking and team collaboration to overcome obstacles. This in turn fosters a relationship of trust and empowers the team to act dynamically.

That fundamental coaching will be the foundation upon which sound processes are built and maintained. All these elements combined enable your company to unlock ever higher degrees of success.

Follow these steps to make your coaching and feedback process more effective.

1. Decide what you want to accomplish

Before you go to your employees with a new project, you need to be clear in your own mind about what you want them to accomplish.

Coaching employees tends to be two-fold. Either you’re coaching them for improvement (or because they’re doing something wrong); or you’re coaching them on a new process or topic that requires training.

Whatever the reason, focus on what the end result should look like more than how you think they should get there. Think about the big picture. How will it affect your overall company objectives? How will it affect your employees’ role in the long run?

If you can convey this and what the outcome should be and why, you’re more likely to get buy-in from employees. Discuss what you want to achieve and be clear about your expectations.

Give them a picture of the desired result, but do not necessarily give them the road map on how to get there unless they ask for one. They may have a different way of going about it than you do, and that’s OK.

Ask for their input and ideas. Maybe they bring something new to the table that hasn’t been studied before. Perhaps they bring up a question on something that hadn’t been thought of previously. A coach has the flexibility to adjust unless it is something involving a standard procedure.

2. Choose the right path

Now that the employee knows the why of this effort it’s time to talk about how to get there.

Set specific criteria for what the output should include and a timeline. Has this ever been done before? If so, is there someone else within the company or team who might provide some first-hand advice?

Communication should come before, during and after the process. It’s important not to just give them instructions and send them on their way.

A key in determining the best approach is to know your employees’ skill sets and areas of expertise. Some will need more instruction than others, depending on the topic.

For instance, a new employee attempting an unfamiliar task might grow frustrated without a considerable amount of coaching. Conversely, an experienced employee might find that same coaching bothersome.

An effective coach knows their pupils to some degree on a personal level. Understanding what gets them excited can help persuade someone grow or change by framing the advice in a way that is most effective.

The top coaches find the best way to train and inspire to get the team moving in the desired direction.

3. Stay on top of the process

Circle back at regular intervals to check progress and encourage employees to ask questions if they have any concerns or issues.

Don’t overdo it by micromanaging your staff. Be there to guide, instruct and offer encouragement and direction as needed, but give them freedom and autonomy.

Another challenge for the coach is correcting without doing so in a negative tone. There’s a fine line between good support and micromanaging, and the best coaches know how to avoid crossing that barrier.

Measure the employee’s progress against the timeline and milestones you set and agreed upon. If you need to adjust the timing, discuss it with the employee and indicate how important it may (or may not) be to the success of the project.

4. Give feedback

Feedback is a two-way process. Employees must communicate any issues. You, as a coach, must respond with constructive feedback on their progress and how they can improve.

Reassure your employees, and try to keep the message positive, but don’t sugar coat it.  Feedback can be hard when the outcome isn’t going great, but you need to be straightforward and honest. You’re not doing the employee any favors if you’re not.

To provide straightforward feedback:

  1. Don’t be vague
  2. Provide examples
  3. Tell them what wasn’t done right
  4. Show how it should be done differently
  5. Explain why it should be done a certain way

Ensure your employees have every necessary resource to meet the goal. Help them remove unforeseen obstacles or consequences that may hinder their progress.

Always remember to be encouraging and to help them through the training. Your goal is to help them grow and learn. Sometimes people need a little optimism to keep them going.

5. Review and recalibrate

Meet a final time with your employees to look back on the project as a whole. Discuss what worked, what didn’t and what could be done differently next time. Make time to celebrate success and reward their accomplishments.

Positive reinforcement helps make the extra effort feel worth it to your employees and encourages them to keep moving forward.

5 crucial components to creating a successful coaching

1. Align coaching with your company’s core values

Coaching is the key to achieving company goals. Therefore, your coaching should be based on your organization’s core values.

They become the why behind your advice and encouragement. This way, your coaching becomes less about what you think and reinforces the culture that you want in your organization.

When you and your employees are looking at the bigger picture together, it should help them be more receptive to you, too.

2. Understand what motivates your employees

It’s okay to ask them flat-out, in a one-on-one meeting, what makes them feel motivated. Or you could distribute a questionnaire to all your employees at once.

Have casual conversations where you find out what they do on the weekend and what their hobbies are. They’re more likely to put in extra effort for a leader who genuinely cares about their well-being.

There’s a human side to coaching. A football coach who yells at players may find that’s ineffective. If the coach appeals to the player’s background instead, the coach might be able to speak the player’s language and thus better motivate the player.

3. Keep it collaborative

No matter the situation, coaching conversations should flow both ways with ample opportunity for mutual feedback and discussion. This way, you’re not removing your employees’ responsibility in the matter or doing the work for them. Collaboration in coaching emphasizes the relationship and teaches you how to become sounding boards for each other.

When you establish great coaching relationships with your employees, it can improve every interaction you have with them and makes management far easier. Effective coaching can build more trust on both sides and keep the door to improvement open at all times.

4. Know your team dynamics

As a coach you certainly don’t want to put people on a project who don’t work well together. If it’s unavoidable, help them find common ground. Ultimately, your goal is to achieve the best possible result for the company.

It all comes back to good coaching. If you’re not ready to invest your time, resources and skills to coach an individual, success is unlikely.

5. As much art as science

Coaching is there to help everyone succeed. Effective coaches inspire and listen. They build strong relationships of trust based on knowing their people and good communication skills.

Coaches must be willing work alongside the employee, or take the blame if something was done poorly.

You can give anyone a step-by-step guide on how to do something. But you’re not going to coach everyone the same way. Some people need more visual coaching, others are auditory. Some are hands on. People have different motivations.

This variety of factors and personalities can make coaching as much of an art as science. But done correctly, coaching can help your employees and your company come away with a win in the end.

Learn more about aligning your employees’ roles with business objectives to cultivate a successful workforce. Download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.