By Doug Upchurch, learning innovation strategist, Insights Learning and Development

    Of the many ways leaders get results, coaching their employees can often be overlooked as the most efficient way to get from point A to point B.

    Coaching gets resultsIn fact, American Management Association (AMA) reported in a global study of successful coaching practices, only half of today’s companies in North America use coaching.

    The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Given the long-term scope and time investment necessary for effective coaching, it’s easy to see how leaders may avoid developing these skills or even opt to use external coaches when available.

    There are a couple problems that arise from this avoidance though. First, it’s coaching conversations, not management conversations that provide the richness of development opportunities for employees. Second, when leaders aren’t prioritizing coaching conversations in their roles, they are basically leaving upside results on the table.

    HR Monthly magazine summarized the efficacy of coaching by reporting that “recent studies show business coaching and executive coaching to be the most effective means for achieving sustainable growth, change, and development in the individual, group, and organization.”

    Given the success that derives from successful coaching, it stands to reason that organizations should help leaders reframe coaching as not just another management burden, but a way to unlock results.

    Whether you’re an experienced or emerging leader, here’s what we recommend to keep in mind when developing coaching skills.

    1. Build your self-awareness and acknowledge how you can be perceived by others

    Like many aspects of being an effective leader, skilled coaching requires a strong foundation in self-awareness. Through this awareness, a leader who knows they’re not a natural people motivator, for example, will make more of an effort to adapt their approach to take this into account. Likewise, a leader who knows they’re poor with time management can make an extra effort to manage their calendar carefully.

    In contrast, leaders who are blissfully unaware of their shortcomings are likely to frustrate colleagues and negate their credibility as a coach. There are a number of ways leaders can raise their level of self-awareness and do work on understanding themselves.

    Personality assessments, like Insights Discovery, are one way to do this, but regardless of how it is developed, skilled coaching requires leaders to know how their style can be perceived by others.

    2. Practice recognizing and reading your coaching recipient’s style

    It is incumbent upon the coach to assess the person in front of them and make adjustments on their part in order to create the best coaching experience possible. This involves watching carefully to assess who you’re working with and recognizing the person’s preferred interpersonal style. Being able to read people in this way will help managers save time in not using unsuccessful coaching approaches.

    Skilled coaches should be asking themselves questions like, is the coaching recipient introverted, extraverted, or somewhere in between? Do they speak to think, or are they more comfortable with solo thinking time? Do they take their time to bond over personal chat or do they want to get straight to the point? The answers to these questions will help coaches know who they are working with and tailor their approach accordingly.

    3. Adapt your personal style to connect during coaching conversations

    Whatever it is that you observe of your coaching recipient’s style, establishing a good working relationship means adapting your own style in order to better connect with theirs.

    For example, you might:

    • Set aside an extra 5 minutes to talk about your weekend with a coaching recipient who values the personal, as well as the professional—even if you’d prefer to get straight to business;
    • Send some thoughtful questions in advance to a coaching recipient who hates to be put on the spot—although you might be more comfortable talking things out in the moment;
    • Give your coaching recipient responsibility for arranging your sessions, if they need help with organizational skills or time management—despite your assumption that you should be in control;
    • Set, and stick, to an agenda for your coaching session, if your coaching recipient loves order—even if you’d be happy to freestyle it.

    It is not a far journey for a good leader to become a great coach, but it is a journey that requires intention and dedication. Although the investment in others can seem overwhelming with all of the other looming pressures and responsibilities that are required of leaders, it’s important to remember that coaching can have an immediate impact and enable endless results. All it takes is an understanding of self, an understanding of others, and the ability to adapt your style to meet the needs of those you are coaching.

    Doug UpchurchWith over 22 years of experience in the Learning and Development industry and 15 years with Insights, Doug has worked with teams at all levels in industries including high-tech, pharmaceutical, biotech/life sciences, energy, health care, real estate, and more. Doug joined Insights in 1999 when he started the first U.S. office in Austin, TX. In 2003, he became CEO for Insights North America.

    Prior to joining Insights, Doug spent 10 years in the IT training industry including two years as the Executive Director of the IT Training Association, (ITTA). Doug has a Bachelors’ degree in Business Administration from Baylor University.