How coaching can help your leadership skills

Managing people is never easy. When all else fails many a manager will start to think how to manage a non-performer out of his or her job. The question for Kerry Craig is not “how to manage people out, but rather how to manage people in. We need to know how to make people passionate about their work and show them how to get the work done.”

Download the presentation here: Coaching as a Leadership Skill

Coaching CoE 3Craig believes that coaching can help a great deal. Many companies, especially in the contact centre industry, agree with Craig. However most struggle with its implementation. One of the main reasons why managers do not coach is because they feel that they do not have the time to do it. “Ultimately, this is short-sighted. If you coach your staff, you will be able to delegate more, which will save you time.”

Like any other major change initiative, coaching needs to be visibly championed by senior management. It needs to become part and parcel a company’s culture. Craig proposes that this should be done in three phases.

  • Phase 1 is to create awareness and engagement. Staff need to be told what the programme entails and how it works. This is done when the programme is introduced but also each time  a new employee joins.
  • Phase 2 is about growing the capability to coach.  At this point, the emphasis is on linking the coaching outcomes with the company’s strategic goals. “We need to be able to track how coaching makes a difference in the business. For example, we may coach staff on how to following a certain process, we can thereafter show how a new process can contribute to the reduction of complaints or an increase in productivity.” Kerry explains.
  • Phase 3 is about sustaining and maintaining. One of the biggest problems in coaching is the lack of follow up. Craig reminded the participants that “we may agree on what needs to be done, but forget to check on progress and what still needs to be done.” The result is that people become cynical and will conclude that coaching is a waste of time.

When conducting a coaching session four factors are vital for coaching to be successful: sufficient preparation, insight and empathy, creating a sense of discovery and constructive behavioural feedback.

Closing the gap between expected performance and actual performance is what coaching is all about. People are much less defensive if they are confident that a coach is objective. That requires preparation “By having our facts on hand we are commenting on the behaviour and not attacking the person. Which allows us to give proper feedbacks. Instead of telling a person that s/he is always late, we need to gather the facts and be able to tell a person when s/he was late and by how much”, says Craig.

Part of coaching is to ask the right questions and then to listen.  At times the other person may not come forward. A coach must be comfortable with silence, sit with the silence until the other person replies. Only then will that person own the recommendation and become accountable for it.

We need to listen emphatically. “Being empathic is not about being sympathetic and feeling sorry for people, making their problem your own. Instead it requires that we ask probing questions and then confirm for understanding.”

But how can we understand others, if we do not understand ourselves? Coaching requires self-awareness. A coach needs to be aware of “how my own values interfere with the way I see the other person? Our own biases may get in the way of how we relate to others, which is very important if we consider how diverse the South African culture is. We need to be mindful of our own state of mind. Our feelings about others influence their behaviour, if you feel negatively about another person, you are unlikely going to be able to influence that person, because unconsciously our feeling show”.

A coach also needs to be adaptable and positive. “Given the fast pace of business today, a coach may him or herself struggle to accept change. How can I promote change, if I struggle myself?

Coaching is expected to help people improve and change their behaviour. Instead of telling people what to do, we need to help people find the way forward for themselves. “We cannot force anyone to change unless they want to change themselves. We need to promote a sense of discovery, get people to think for themselves, get them to experience a sense of control that is within them.”

“If you have an inner locus of control, you accept responsibility for your own behaviour. If that sense of control is external, you blame everyone else for what is going on. You do not accept personal responsibility, you will constantly blame others, and that means others will also not accept responsibility,” Craig elaborates. “When people say something, you need to ask yourself, what is that the person telling you, listen and reflect what you understand back to the other person. In that way you can help a person adjust their thinking. Ask probing question. Why is something happening?  Do you understand what the impact of your behaviour is on others? What does it mean for others”

All too often managers assume that their staff know what is expected from them. “They may have been told what their Key Performance Indicators are and they may have received their job description. However do they really understand them? People do not want to be the odd one out on the team, if a person understands what is expected, s/he is more likely to fit in. We need to constantly communicate what is expected to our staff, especially if there is change.”

Coaching CoE 2


CoE- Coaching as a leadership skill There are numerous ways of how we can communicate and provide feedback to people.

  • No communication is the worst. People do not know what to expect and will begin to speculate and be influenced by fear
  • Criticism makes people defensive and is unlikely to lead to behavioural change
  • Advice must be given correctly. Don’t give people the answers or spoon feed them rather help people to come up with their own solutions
  • Positive feedback is powerful. People crave attention and to be appreciated and valued. Unfortunately much more attention is given to people with performance problems instead of praising those who excel.

People often struggle with giving feedback. But there are a few rules that can make it easier:

  • Make your feedback specific, focus on the behaviour and refer to facts
  • Try to ask questions
  • Focus on a particular issue at a time. There is only so much a person can absorb at once.
  • Clarify what you want to achieve
  • Create a supportive environment, do not make people feel small, support people through your positive body language and voice.
Coaching is not limited to formally structured and scheduled sessions. There are other non-conventional coaching opportunities that are less time consuming and therefore valuable in time pressured environments such as contact centres. Amongst these opportunities are:
  • Working side by side with a person
  • Management by walk about
  • Giving people opportunities to participate on projects that allow them to learn new things
  • Performance management sessions
  • Buzz session where the team discusses progress and problem solves issues as they arise
  • Role modelling and working with a buddy
“To reap all the rewards of coaching it is essential that the coach successfully integrates coaching in the essence of every activity. This will ensure that coaching is not a once a week or monthly activity, that it is not disjointed from the employees day to day experience of the coach as a leader. It is something that you do not think about something that you do constantly. Coaching and building people must become part of your leadership style”, Craig concludes.
Download the presentation here: Coaching as a Leadership Skill
 Coaching CoE 1