Coaching is a critical function of leadership in the workplace. When management is successful at setting expectations, providing feedback and holding employees accountable for performance, the entire organization prospers. In this research brief, we will define the organizational coaching process, identify who makes the best coach, and discuss the benefits of being an effective coach.
The coaching process helps the employee to understand his or her role within the organization and how best to perform to the company’s expectations. According to Werner (2012), coaching consists of several steps including: coaching, feedback, and goal setting. While those three steps outline the foundation of the overall coaching process, the act of coaching itself can be described as understanding “decision making…strategizing…thinking through a process and its underlying assumptions” (Lazar 20013, p. 1). By viewing the act of coaching in this definition and analyzing an employee’s decision-making quality, the feedback becomes relevant to the performance issue at hand. When a manager sets expectations and explains the specific actions an employee must take in order to perform successfully, the manager gives herself the ability to hold the employee accountable to those actions. Every successful coaching experience always starts with setting expectations, providing feedback along the way and holding the employee accountable.
While many employees may look to a peer or a mentor outside of the chain of command for advice, often the best coach will be the employee’s direct supervisor (Werner, 2012). Many times, the direct supervisor has intimate knowledge of the job at hand which becomes critical in coaching technical skills. The supervisor will often have visibility to the employee’s role within the overall hierarchy of the company and be able to provide valuable feedback on actions and behaviors unique to the organizational culture. In addition, the supervisor is often in the same work location as the employee and is in a position to directly observe the behaviors that may require a coaching conversation. For these reasons, the direct supervisor is often the best coach.
As the workplace continues to evolve, the value of an effective coach becomes more prominent. Effective coaching skills in leaders is considered an emerging competency and one that is critical for the success and employee retention of both the coach and employee (Diedrich, 2001). While in the past, coaching may have been a sideline responsibility for a manager, it is now recognized as an essential tool for the modern leader (Phillips, 1996). Effective coaches understand that feedback to the employee must be both ongoing and timely (Werner, 2012). In addition to frequent and timely feedback, employees appreciate a mix of both formal and informal feedback (Werner, 2012). By utilizing effective coaching skills, both the employee and the manager are positioned for success.
To tie these ideas of effective coaching together, take the example of the continuously tardy employee. The coaching conversation begins with the manager observing the behavior of the employee coming in late. Next, the manager pulls the employee aside in private and simply states, “I noticed you were late today. The expectation is that you arrive to work on time. What can we do going forward to make sure this happens?” In this way, the manager can appropriately address the issue and set the expectation going forward. If the problem persists, the manager has this conversation to fall back on and hold the employee accountable to the behaviors discussed previously.
As the workforce continues to grow, coaching will continue to rise in importance as a critical management skill. By understanding the coaching process, identifying effective coaches, and recognizing the benefits to both the manager and employee of consistent coaching, organizations become stronger and better able to reach its long term goals.
Diedrich, R. & Kilburg, R. (2001). Forward: Further consideration of executive coaching as an emerging competency. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 53(4), 203-204.
Lazar, J., & Bergquist, W. (2003). Alignment coaching: The missing element of business coaching. International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 1(1), 14-27.
Phillips, R. (1996). Coaching for higher performance. Employee Counseling Today, 8(4), 29–32.
Werner, J.M. & DeSimone, R.L. (2012). Human resource development (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.