Coaching and mentoring in the workplace is being used by more and more companies instead of more traditional, less effective skill development strategies like attending seminars and courses.
The reason is simple: The more time you invest into your employees the quicker they’ll develop. The quicker they develop, the faster your business will grow.
Companies that place their staff at the centre of their business development strategy will produce a passionate workforce, who are more willing to learn and improve and are more loyal because they actually enjoy their jobs and the people they work with.
Effective coaching in the workplace however, is no easy task. Depending on the nature of your business, you’ll sooner or later come across some well-known challenges. Being aware of these challenges and knowing how to approach them is crucial to the success of your new coaching and mentoring initiative. Continue reading to get a head start.
- 4 most common coaching problems experienced by companies
- Benefits of coaching and mentoring in the workplace
- How to deliver more effective coaching — Coaching tips for managers
4 most common coaching problems experienced by companies
1. Time and Distance
Most types of work coaching require some element of travel and a significant amount of time commitment. Especially if the workplace coaching you’re doing involves travelling to multiple locations.
Having collaborated and worked with many companies over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to observe the most efficient ways to solve the issue of time and distance when coaching in the workplace.
These are what we’ve found to be the best ways to optimise this process:
Encourage your teams to coach each other
This reduces the amount of reliance on your management team for coaching, whilst also creating an organic learning community.
Many organisations are moving to a model of community based learning and peer coaching, which allows teams to pass on intrinsic, job-related knowledge that otherwise would be impossible to do without the experience of the individuals in your team.
Use video-conferencing to coach remotely and flexibly
As the world moves more and more online, video-conferencing has become the new boardroom.
The flexibility of remote, online mentoring and coaching is a huge time and money saver. By using video calls you can conduct coaching sessions without physically needing to be in the office.
Additionally, you also don’t require your team to be in one place. Allowing for effective coaching, no matter where you and your employees are located.
Use video recording for remote observation and feedback
Coaching and mentoring in the workplace typically involves a lot of observation and feedback of your employees’ skills. These types of skills might include:
- Phone etiquette
- Sales training
- Presentation skills
- Management skills
- Other practical tasks both off and on-screen
Traditional in-person observation involves a great deal of planning, time and resource management. When discussing the happenings afterwards, feedback might be difficult to relate to as it was perceived differently by the coach and the coachee. By video-recording these tasks instead, feedback becomes contextualised and objective, making it far more effective for your employees’ professional development. And the best part — it can be time-shifted and completely location independent.
On recorded video, feedback can be given either as a voice-over, in the form of time-stamped comments or in real-time while playing the recording back with the employee on a video-conference call.
Explore the power of video for coaching and mentoring
2. Lack of objectivity and interpersonal skills
With in-person observation and feedback you’re contending with gaps in understanding and miscommunication as outlined above, because your employee won’t always be able to recall every detail of their task that might need addressing.
This can result in disagreements between coach and coachee on the actual details, and when details can’t be agreed then progressing past that point becomes far more challenging.
A lack of objective understanding can result in the employees not enjoying the coaching process, especially if the coach lacks interpersonal skills that are required for objective feedback. Quite often this starts feeling more like a performance management task, rather than a skills development task.
There are many examples of how objectivity and lack of interpersonal skills can hinder the performance coaching process. You can avoid emotional fallout when providing feedback by following these tips:
- Encourage self-reflection - Ask the coachee to think about their task that’s been observed, with the goal of figuring out by themselves what they believe is worth improving on. They are then more likely to be prepared for feedback and open to suggestions they might not have considered.
- Use evidence to support feedback — When you coach, make sure you use real-life examples of behaviour in relation to your feedback. Ideally real-life examples of the employee that you’re helping.
- Envision outcomes and progress - One of the best things you as a coach can do for your coachees, is to provide a vision for where you would like them to get to. Provide examples of good practice, success stories, discuss potential downfalls and provide solutions to them before they happen based on your expertise.
- Respect your employee — The largest issue staff have with companies is their lack of empathy. Remember that your employees are human beings with their own personal challenges, both at work and at home. Keep these in mind and be caring when giving developmental feedback. Focus on helping your coachee to be the best version of themselves, rather than simply optimising a workforce.
3. Lack of long term planning
We frequently encounter the ‘one-off’ performance coaching phenomenon. Where a coach with limited understanding of the employee’s unique style and processes tries to prematurely change certain behaviour without fully considering the wider consequences of their suggestions.
It’s almost better not to provide coaching if this is the likely scenario, because you’ll do more harm than good by confusing and frustrating your employees.
How to establish a long term coaching strategy
- Have a plan — There are so many factors that come into play when implementing a successful performance coaching programme. Understanding how it all fits into the wider scope for the organisation is key. For example, establish a regular coaching schedule around existing obligations of staff and embed the learning into your organisation to make it the language of progress.
- Track progress — Understanding the impact of your coaching efforts is important. Knowing exactly what an employee needs assistance with and tracking its progress over the course of your coaching cycle will help you make the most of the time you spend coaching and mentoring your staff.
- Highlight the ‘why’ — Ensure that your employees know why they are starting a coaching programme. Make targets, motivate them, and make sure they too can see the outcomes of the coaching. A positive process means you will have pro-coaching advocates within your company and we all know how powerful word of mouth can be.
Click here to jump directly to our top 3 coaching tips for managers.
4. Culture of the company
If you work in a company that generally promotes a top-down approach, with employees being frequently told ‘how it’s done’, then your culture may not be right for coaching and mentoring.
If leaders are unsupportive and often dictate tasks that only promote short-term productivity, team development tends to be sidelined. The benefits of coaching can only be realised if leaders are ready to accept the long-term nature of the process.
So how do you promote a coaching and mentoring culture in your organisation?
- Evaluate your company culture — Your company culture may not be suitable for coaching right now, that’s not to say that you wouldn’t be able to implement it moving forward. Start slow by looking at your company structure, what leadership styles do people use, is there company wide collaboration, do you have any key players that could potentially start to take on a coaching role? Establish a slow and steady plan to evolve into a learning organisation.
- Make sure everyone knows the benefits — A change in culture can be difficult to implement and can be unsettling for staff. Ensure that you’re open about your goals as a coach, and get your staff involved in the process by outlining the benefits of your initiative.
- Use a phased approach — Like we mentioned before, introducing a new initiative can be unsettling. So we’d recommend a phased approach by starting with a smaller cohort of coachees as a pilot group which you can then expand. This is a great way of working out the details of your coaching initiative before moving to the wider organisation.
Benefits of coaching and mentoring in the workplace
If you’ve considered and planned for the challenges above, you’re all set to start seeing a great return of investment on your coaching and mentoring initiative.
Unlike more traditional training methods that rely on disseminating information and hoping for the best, coaching and mentoring is used to enhance employee knowledge and skills on an individual basis rather than a one size fits all approach.
Coaching tends to be a more structured approach than mentoring, with more short-term benefits for immediate gains. Mentoring, however, is a relationship which develops more slowly over time and can last for years. Both help your staff gain the experience to achieve long-term career goals.
So let’s look at potential outcomes you can see as a result of an effective coaching and mentoring strategy:
Improved staff retention
Staff turnover is costly, and staff that feel under-valued or unsupported, leave. Research shows that coaching and mentoring helps to build supportive relationships between colleagues, leaving individuals feeling appreciated, empowered and invested in.
Using it as a tool for development increases job satisfaction, improves staff retention and in turn, reduces recruitment costs.
Attraction of new employees
If employees have coaches they can trust, it gives them a first-point of contact for any queries. Regular communication allows staff to work towards both personal and company goals with a positive state of mind. Applying this to your workplace will increase employee engagement and put staff wellbeing at the heart of the company, making it an even more attractive workplace for new hires.
Accelerated career development
Highly-structured, one-size-fits-all training programmes are ineffective at best.
Coaching and mentoring takes advantage of the knowledge and expertise of experienced staff by giving employees the skills needed to meet professional development goals.
Studies show that staff who work for companies that have implemented coaching and mentoring strategies are 5 times more likely to be promoted.
Creation of a high performing culture
Employees of companies with a strong coaching and mentoring culture are more engaged than those at organisations who are not. They’re able to align their personal goals with company priorities which, in turn, helps to improve both their individual performance and team efficiency.
Many companies are now using coaching and mentoring techniques to promote a high performing culture that will give them a competitive edge.
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How to deliver more effective coaching — Coaching tips for managers
Nowadays, everyone gets some level of coaching, whether it’s getting you up to speed in your new role or a fully trained coaching consultant who specialises in leadership. Coaching is an important tool to call upon when you need a little more support or guidance.
Whether you lead a team, mentor a colleague, or just get asked for friendly advice now and then, learning the skills of the trade is valuable to anyone who helps and supports others.
Our top 3 tips for refining your coaching style:
#1 Listen to your coachee
The International Coach Federation defines active listening as:
“The ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying. To understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires. To support client self-expression.”
Coaching should not be limited to dictating feedback, identifying problems and jumping to giving advice. Coaching should be a shared journey to find solutions by working through challenges and obstacles, together.
In order to do this well, you need to listen.
It is not your role to interrogate or solve the problem yourself. Encourage self-reflection and problem-solving by asking open and probing questions to identify needs and goals. Listening attentively allows you to identify feelings and empathise with your coachee in a calm and curious manner.
This will help you make a greater impact on your employee because you’ll better understand their beliefs, needs, concerns, and perceptions.
Top Tip: Throughout the coaching conversation, summarise and paraphrase the conversation. This will let your coachee know you are engaged in their development, understand their needs, and ensure that the conversation stays on track with your employee’s goals.
#2 Work with your coachee to establish goals
This is your time to create a framework for measuring goals and successes. It is important to create a foundation for growth opportunities that have been identified by your employee.
Decide on the development area, why they would like to develop, and what outcomes they feel this will have.
It is also important to talk about career aspirations so that you can build skills that may be useful for the future, and ensure that they are invested in developing longer-term goals. This is especially important if you are only coaching them for a short period of time, and will make sure they continue their development work after you part ways.
Top Tip: Focusing on only weaknesses when you plan goals can be demotivating. Only addressing weaknesses sends the wrong message to your coachee. By focusing on strengths, also, can reinforce good behaviours and further develop their strengths whilst making them feel valued.
#3 Provide objective feedback
Objective feedback consists of specific and measurable points that provide information about performance. Objective feedback is key for encouraging self-reflection.
As human beings we heavily rely on subjective feedback when making decisions. However, our subjective feedback is often biased and can be influenced by a number of factors; including memory, emotions, and perception.
For example, a pessimistic person could feel they performed poorly, yet their performance had a number of key strengths they failed to pick up on due to their own subjective feedback.
This can often work as a barrier to successful coaching relationships, causing the coach and coachee to disagree on key performance aspects.
Objective feedback is very powerful as it helps coachees identify where change needs to happen without too much interference from the coach. It favours facts and reason over thoughts and feelings, and gives a clear indication as to why developing a certain skill or behaviour will have a positive impact.
When feedback is provided in this manner, the employee is much more likely to develop their skills and behaviours accordingly, while providing their own foundation for progress.
Top tip! Use video to provide real workplace-based, objective feedback. Allow your coachee to watch themselves in action and objectively identify key areas of their performance. Then use open and probing questions to help them highlight the impact of those recorded behaviours.
As organisations we need to understand that the people that work for us are the reason we’re able to succeed. Taking care of employees has never been more important and it should definitely be at the top of all of our to do lists.
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute”
— Simon Sinek, Author “Start With Why.”
If you’re establishing or revamping your coaching programme, be sure to start with video being your main tool:
- Video allows you to coach your employees from anywhere, both live and prerecorded.
- It’s far easier to scale your efforts with video because you’re no longer restricted by time or distance.
- Using time-stamped comments on video is perfect for contextualising feedback, giving you the opportunity to discuss certain skills or areas of improvement more thoroughly without the concern of miscommunication or misunderstanding.
As a nice benefit, the recorded videos for coaching purposes can also become their own resource library of exemplar practice and be an effective tool in itself as staff will recognise and identify with the people they’re watching and more inclined to put what they’ve seen into practice.