Coaching is a whole new ballgame to many staff and somewhat different from the other components of the people development agenda. Training is about imparting knowledge and/or teaching a new skill, concept or process, while mentoring involves support, guidance and supervision. Coaching, however, turns the tables around: the onus is on the coachee.
The coachee is not a passive course delegate or pupil waiting for guidance from their teacher. A coachee has to do the thinking, the reflection, the unravelling and the talking. They are empowered. They grasp and accept the concept that, for things to change, they need to change. For things to get better, they need to get better.
Behind the coachee is the expert facilitator and question master: the coach. They are there to encourage the coachee to have that eureka moment. The coach listens intently and asks probing questions but resists the temptation to give the answers, dish out advice or provide the solution as they see it. Their role is to stimulate decision-making and problem-solving.
If the coach is up to scratch, the coachee should leave the session at least feeling like they have had the opportunity to vocalise feelings, ideas and even fears. At best, the coaching session will have stimulated some sharp clarity of thought and a decisive action plan to answer the question “What next?”.
I have been coaching people for many years, first in the world of education and more recently in financial services. People are the same wherever you go and they genuinely value the opportunity to have some confidential, sacrosanct time for reflection. Admittedly, I have found that some are a little apprehensive at first and need a lot of encouragement. Others are more than happy to talk about their team members but not so keen on self-reflection and diagnosis. After a couple of sessions, however, I find most start to look forward to “their” time.
We fully embrace the coaching model in all four of our people development programmes and the results have been fantastic. People are rather good at it now: they understand how it works and ‘get’ the roles of the coach and coachee.
Every session begins with reflection on “Where am I now?” and the phrase “How do you feel about that?” features heavily in proceedings.
We have had some serious eureka moments during this process.
One of our sales consultants recently ‘saw the light’, realising that if he continued to do what he always did, he would continue to get what he always got. A steady performer previously, he suddenly emerged as a different person, hitting the high numbers on the sales board, demonstrating leadership and mentoring skills and involving himself in the development of others. Transformed, motivated and energised, he went on to win Brightstar of the Month, our employee recognition scheme.
The coaching did not change what this sales consultant was at the core: he was the same person with the same experience and knowledge. However, it helped him to do some soul-searching and to ask questions of himself. The potential had always been there but he had to discover that he needed to change his way of working to secure better results.
In my experience, coaching does not always give immediate results but, as the process unfolds, it is hugely gratifying to see people change almost before your eyes. Coaching raises self-awareness, which, in turn, prompts perception and an understanding of others. Everybody wins.
With the market now comfortably recovering, advisers and their support teams have never been busier. The one thing in jeopardy is sacrosanct time. Coaching gives people the skills to maximise all the opportunities the market upturn may bring.
With this in mind, it is time very well spent.