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The Power of Coaching

by Paul Duxbury

When you hear the word "coach", what comes first into your mind? Do you picture the 46 Seater Coach packed with tourists or do you picture a basketball team with person shouting out instructions? Or maybe the image of a football team with someone in a tracksuit pacing back and to calling out the names of the players comes to mind?

Coaching does indeed have it's origins in the world of transportation when servants conveyed a person of worth from place to place in a Coach! Coaching initially became more familiar as a profession with the images of the Coach working with a sports team. Before I move on to look at how Coaching works now I just want to share with you my favourite definition of Coaching which is that it is about enabling an individual to move from where they are now to where they want to be. I especially like that definition because of its succinct explanation of Coaching that links back to the original meaning of the word "Coach".

Coaching is now one of the key concepts in leadership and management and increasing numbers of people who truly want to be successful are receiving Coaching. Why has coaching become so popular?

Coaching Creates a Level Playing Field

As a leadership style, coaching is used when the members of a group or team are competent and motivated, but do not have an idea of the long-term goals of an organization. This involves two different levels of coaching; team and individual. Team coaching enables team members to work together.

In a group of individuals, not everyone may have the same level of competence and commitment to a goal. A group may be a mix of highly competent and moderately competent individuals with varying degrees of commitment to the team goals. These differences can become a cause of friction among the members of the team with resentment about differing levels of contribution appearing.

The leader who coaches helps the team members level their expectations. In addition the coaching leader is able to manage differing perspectives so that the common goal succeeds over personal goals and interests. In a large organization, leaders need to work to align the personal values and goals of the individuals within the organization with those of the organization so that long-term or strategic directions can be pursued.

Coaching Builds up Confidence and Competence

Individual coaching is an example of situational leadership at work. The leader who coaches works one-on-one with individuals building up their confidence by affirming good performance during regular feedbacks. They also increase individual competence by helping people assess their strengths and weaknesses to facilitate career planning and professional development.

Depending on the individual's level of competence and commitment, a leader may exercise more coaching behaviour for the less-experienced members. Usually, this happens in the case of new team members. The individual's direct manager gives more defined tasks and holds regular feedback sessions with the new member of staff. Over time they will gradually lessen the amount of directive coaching and move along the coaching continuum towards consultative coaching as the individual's competence and confidence increase.

Coaching Promotes Individual and Team Excellence

Excellence is a product of habitual good practice. Holding regular coaching oriented meetings and providing constructive feedback is incredibly important in helping to establish good habits. In a coached team individuals will develop the habit of constantly assessing themselves for their strengths and areas for improvement that they themselves perceive what knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to acquire to attain team goals. In the process, not only do they find themselves empowered to examine their behaviours but they attain individual excellence as well. An excellent analogy or example is the Orchestra: in which each member plays a different instrument. In order to achieve harmony of music from the different instruments, individuals will ensure that they play their part in the piece to the very best of their ability, aside from practicing as an Orchestra. Consequently, as well as performing in a team they improve individually as an instrument player.

Coaching Develops High Commitment to Common Goals

A leader who coaches works to balance the attainment of immediate targets with long-term goals towards the vision of the organization. As I mentioned earlier, with the alignment of personal goals with organizational or team goals, the personal interests are also kept in balance so that they do not distract from the team purpose and goals. By constantly communicating the vision through formal and informal conversations, the team members are inspired and motivated. Setting short-term team goals aligned with organizational goals and making an action plan to attain these goals can help sustain the increased motivation and commitment to common goals of the members.

Coaching Produces Valuable Leaders

Leadership by example is important in coaching. A leader who professes to follow a coaching approach will soon lose credibility if they do not practice what they preach. This means that they should be well organized, highly competent is their field, communicate openly and encourage feedback, and have a clear idea of the organization's vision-mission-goals. By working with leaders who coach individuals they can acquire the same good practices and attitudes they see modelled by their leader/manager. This in turn will enable them to become coaches themselves. If an individual experiences good coaching, they are most likely to do the same things when entrusted with formal leadership roles.

In conclusion, as I commented at the outset coaching enables an individual to move from where they are now to where they want to be! Those who experience coaching really do see change in their lives and by applying the skills they observe and acquire through being coached they make a difference to those they work with.

About the Author

Paul Duxbury is an experienced management trainer and Coach. Do you want to achieve your goals and live the lifestyle you really want? Read more at www.fulfilling-your-dreams.com.

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