How to motivate your staff with coaching

Dos and don'ts for boosting productivity and holding onto workers

Dos and don'ts for boosting productivity and holding onto workers

Looking for a way to boost staff productivity and loyalty? Try coaching. Jackie Arnold explores how this style of management can achieve significant results for businesses.

Retaining and motivating key staff is a continual challenge for business leaders and managers. Particularly in tough economic times, employees can be fearful and building trust is vital in order to get the best out of people.

One way to do this is for managers to bone up on their coaching skills.

Coaching is gaining momentum. In both Europe and the US many corporate and public organisations are now training coaches internally or bringing in coaching programmes and experts from outside.

A study by the International Personnel Management Association noted that ordinary training typically increased productivity by 22 per cent, while training combined with coaching increased productivity by 88 per cent.

One significant advantage of coaching is that employees will begin to take ownership and responsibility for their actions and self-development. The manager-as-coach does not need to come up with answers. Instead he will listen more closely to staff, reflecting back what he hears and questioning them in order to bring out their own ideas and answers.

Developing your coaching skills
From my point of view coaching is not a tool - it is a way of being with someone so that they begin to believe in and act upon their own ideas.

Using a coaching style can greatly enhance the self-belief and motivation of staff, particularly in times of change and uncertainty. You may already be using some coaching skills; however coaching is definitely not mentoring so understanding the difference is key to success.

Coaching works best when:

  • The session is totally confidential (and agreed with all parties).
  • You can create a calm and relaxed one-to-one session.
  • You refrain from making judgements.
  • Issues can be explored and workers feel supported.
  • You do not offer any advice or suggestions (that's mentoring).
  • You totally believe the employee has the answers or can develop.
  • The focus as a coach is not so much on the content as on the coaching process/style.

Coaching is, to a great extent, a particular mindset and way of conducting a respectful conversation with another person. A manager-as-coach will believe in the potential of the employee and work with them to nurture that potential.

By using coaching techniques such as deep listening and effective questioning skills, you create space for your employees to reflect on their learning. The one-to-one sessions allow the employee to bring up concerns or areas of difficulty in a non-judgemental space. Employees are then more willing to take responsibility for their progress and feel motivated when they are encouraged and valued.

Coaching tips
Here are five coaching tips for any managers looking to adopt this technique with staff:

  1. Try using the 'Grow' model, which was developed and enhanced by John Whitmore for use in business. Grow is an acronym where:
    G = Goal (What is the team/individual wanting to achieve?) R = Reality (What is the current reality of the situation/issue?) O = Options (What options are open to them?) W = Will/Way (Is there a will and a way to take things forward?)
  2. Listen at a deeper level than usual. Empty your mind of the day's clutter and focus your full attention on your employee.
  3. Use similar words to your coachee as this enables them to feel heard.
  4. Give people time to think and space to grow and develop.
  5. Make sure the venue for the session is quiet and uninterrupted.

When using coaching skills as a line manager or team leader it can be easy to fall into some common traps. Here are some things to avoid:

  • Trying to help people or fix the problem for them.
  • Jumping in with your ideas or suggestions.
  • Making them feel you are the expert.
  • Letting them know you know more than they do.

As you can see, coaching is not a quick fix. It needs to be carefully considered and contracts and agreements must be drawn up between all stakeholders.

Nonetheless using coaching skills in the workplace can greatly enhance the motivation and willingness of staff to take ownership of their development. This will free managers up to do the job they were employed to do - and enable them to delegate more effectively.

Jackie Arnold is a leadership coach and the director of Coach 4 Executives. She runs accredited coach training programmes for the Institute of Leadership & Management. Many of the case studies in her latest book "Coaching skills for Leaders in the Workplace," (How To Books, 2009) are taken from real examples of coaching programmes set up by her clients and course participants. In her business Jackie has often used her own coach to support her in achieving her goals.

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