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24 April 2020

A practical coaching guide for your development toolkit

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There are various coaching models out there that can be used as a framework. In this blog, one of MHR's HR consultants discusses a range of different skills and approaches needed in a manager's toolkit.

With the current world of work moving at pace into unchartered territory, the traditional norms and formal structure of work and our established expectations are rapidly dissolving. These external factors will place further demands on leaders, managers, and employees to realign and reposition themselves in how we operate, do business and support and develop people within our organisations.

We may have all at some point explored, researched and implemented development interventions such as Coaching, Mentoring, Action Learning, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to varying degrees of scale and effectiveness whether on an individual or organisation basis. What we are faced with now is a rapidly changing world of work where traditional norms are breaking down which will only accelerate and demand the use of such interventions further and quicker.

One of these interventions, coaching, offers a great opportunity to support and develop our people as their ability and inclination to follow traditional forms of face to face development are interrupted as the world of work changes, potentially on a scale not seen for generations.

While there are various coaching models that can be utilised such as GROW (Graham Alexander), or CLEAR (Peter Hawkins), which provide a framework and guide to the stepping points of a coaching relationship, they all utilise a range of skills and approaches which form part of a manager’s toolkit from a coaching perspective including:

  1. Active listening – being in the moment focussed on your colleague and not preparing your own response or next question, thinking beyond the words they are saying, or thinking you have to fill the silent pauses or prompt your coachee.
  2. 80:20 rule - 80% of your time should be spent actively listening, while the remaining 20% is left for probing and challenging questions.
  3. Questioning skills are equally key and go hand in glove with listening. Make use of both open and closed questions to support your coachee in identifying their own suggestions and potential solutions.
  4. Helping when people feel ‘stuck’ where a situation or issue makes the coachee feel as though they cannot progress, develop, or move on until it is resolved. Providing a different perspective or impartial view of the situation can help the coachee move on.
  5. Future focussed - coaching is about a future focus, setting goals and discussing how those goals can be achieved and how any barriers or blockages on the way can be overcome. This can help your coachee to visualise what that new place and achieved goal will look like. Remember its often easier to look back on a successful journey pausing to ‘fondly’ remember some of the issues on the way rather than being put off by a difficult road ahead.
  6. Contracting – understanding what each person brings to the coaching relationship and what you can expect from each other, a mutually agreed programme which isn’t forced upon either party.
  7. Commitment – along with contracting this involves gaining commitment to take some action, its not just a talking shop to air concerns and issues, it's agreeing to take action and learn from the outcomes. Some may be positive, some may be more negative, but either way there is learning and change to be reflected upon.

One good example of a coaching programme I was involved in was through the West Midlands Employers organisation, which focuses on supporting and developing performance improvement within a range of public sector partners across the region.

The programme has been running for over ten years and revolves around the training and development of a pool of professionally qualified Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) coaches from the various partner organisations. This team of experts are then available for managers who require coaching within the other partner organisations. For example, a coach from Staffordshire would provide their skills and expertise in supporting and developing a manager from Warwickshire, sharing learning and different viewpoints across the partner organisations. One of the advantages of this approach was that it allowed fresh perspectives, not tainted by internal knowledge of the areas, or people involved, which can sometimes extinguish the ability to develop open, frank and challenging conversations. This provides access to high-quality coaching but without the associated costly price tag and a self-sustaining ongoing pool of qualified coaches to draw upon from a validated and recognised partner body.

In summary, coaching offers the ability for managers of all levels to engage with their employees to provide opportunities for reflective practice on how pieces of work, projects, or customer relationships have been delivered and what learning can be gained from them. As we know, learning from mistakes or unsuccessful interventions can be equally powerful in the long term.

Coaching aligns with the MHR approach to ‘Check-Ins’ where employee and manager(s) immediate and/or matrix manager(s) can discuss performance and provide constructive feedback on areas of focus or potential development and exploration. This can take place outside of a more formal appraisal/performance management cycle and can contribute to ongoing personal and professional development.

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Graham Johnson

Graham Johnson is a Senior HR Consultant with People First and is responsible for working with customers and partners to help them provide a return on their investment in both their HRIS such as People First and the associated harder to quantify benefits to their employees performance, engagement and subsequent enhanced productivity levels. Graham is a Chartered Member of the CIPD and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in HRM and an ILM Level 7 Post Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching and Lead

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