There is a huge difference between telling someone what to do and actually empowering them to do it. Many leaders only do the former, which is far less effective and not actually “coaching” as we define it.
Coaching is the process by which someone is enabled to perform a task, complete an objective, or gain competency in a given process or subject matter. A coach isn’t necessarily a subject matter expert, but rather a vehicle through which people achieve greatness.
Leaders with well-developed coaching skills are able to ask the right questions, steer people in the right direction, and keep their team encouraged and driven to achieve a specific goal. In order to know where to start, however, leaders must refer to the competency cycle.
The Competency Cycle Is Key
Coaching for leaders starts with determining the competency level of whomever you’re coaching. The four stages of the competency cycle are as follows:
- Unconscious Incompetence
- The person has no competence on the given subject matter, and is unclear on where exactly the deficit lies. This stage is reserved for people with little-to-no knowledge of the task at hand, and lack of background information about the topic.
- Conscious Incompetence
- Although the person isn’t yet capable of the task, they understand what aspects need improvement, and the keys to success for the given objective.
- Conscious Competence
- The skill has been learned, but the person isn’t yet completely capable of completing the task without careful consideration and some level of guidance.
- Unconscious Competence
- The task can now be completed with ease, and is considered “second-nature.”
The stage that the student is in will determine the amount of coaching required, and the level of guidance needed to get them to the “unconscious competence” stage. After this is determined, the coaching itself can begin, and it all starts with communication.
Coaching Is Communicating
The process of coaching for leaders begins with opening up a channel of transparent and honest communication between the coach and the learner. This needs to be a two-way channel with both parties are willing to listen closely to the other. Without this, no progress will be made, and coaching will be all but impossible.
The reason why coaching is so crucial to the success of a business is because it creates fluency. Fluency only comes when someone is able to improve on their mistakes and shortcomings, which is a function of giving performance feedback. Performance feedback is the fuel of good coaching, and can be done easily with enough practice. There are a few keys to giving performance feedback that should be followed when possible:
- Be timely with your feedback
- Be honest, and specific in your comments
- Make it a positive experience by using encouragement
- Keep criticism private
- Follow up on your feedback
The follow-up aspect of performance feedback is the most crucial step, and can increase efficiency of learning tremendously if done right. Measuring ability, knowing where the trainee stands in the competency cycle, and having meaningful conversations about strengths and weaknesses all result in a far better coaching process for all parties. Check-ins and follow-ups help give the trainee perspective, and makes the trainer more aware of what needs to change in their process. This ties into the communication aspect of coaching, but goes deeper and further than surface conversations.
Sustained Leadership Success Through Coaching
The great thing about a good coach is that they rarely leave a bad taste in the mouth of those they mentor. Coaching can be a great way for business leaders to build sustainable, healthy, and transparent relationships with employees which is important, because 45% of people say that lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting their work performance. Thorough, thoughtful coaching lets employees know that you care about their progress, and that you’re invested in their success. Once a leader or manager can get someone to the “unconscious competence” level of the competency cycle, they are autonomous, and trust is far easier to achieve.