Coaching is being touted as the new ‘craze’ in workplace training, but is it really that new? Training experts have long recognised the value of coaching – it’s certain industries such as highly technical sectors that have been slow to take hold. Now though, the value in coaching is becoming more widely acknowledged.
The main reason that certain industries have been slow to recognise the value in coaching is that it isn’t an easy soft skill to master, and requires a combination of excellent communication and people skills such as listening, questioning, building rapport and providing feedback.
People in hard-line industries aren’t always comfortable or capable of using these skills so it’s easy to bypass coaching and focus instead on old-fashioned delegation and traditional classroom-based training. However, the tide is beginning to turn. When we at Business Linked Teams are asked to develop leadership training, the number one requirement is training managers how to coach.
Coaching allows for an individual to learn on the job, in an atmosphere that is much more engaging than a presentation and will often give an employee the opportunity to learn for themselves. With the right guidance, coaching can become a much more efficient solution compared with the mundane approach of traditional training methods.
While training may incorporate elements of coaching, training is largely a formal process of imparting information. Coaching is about more than telling people what to do – it’s about encouraging and assisting them to perform the skill or behaviour that you want them to learn in a task-based activity.
Mentoring, on the other hand, is a relationship-based activity. A mentoring relationship aims to achieve specific goals in areas such as career development, networking, approaching specific projects and striking the right work-life balance, yet these goals will only form a small part of the whole picture.
In most cases, coaching is a formal relationship where the coachee has a specific goal to achieve. Whether short-term, long-term or a combination of both, coaching goals are always specific. The coach is there to guide the coachee through a formal process, often involving the extensive questions to help the other person to identify what they need to do to achieve their objective.
In an age where businesses are on a perpetual quest for agility, every manager should be using coaching at least some of the time. By incorporating coaching into development programmes, businesses can increase their agility by empowering coaches with the accountability for achieving the goal, creating a culture of ownership.
Not only is the coaching process flexible, it can also be adapted to the needs of the individual. But it works for the business too, being cost effective and focused on the goal in question – meaning that it actually delivers the desired results. Whether part of a formal process or a management style in its own right, coaching encourages innovation and new ways of working that will in turn inspire agility across the business.
Samantha Caine is managing director at Business Linked Teams