Coaching skills for managers

Coaching is good management practice. Some of us do it more, some do it less. Some do it well, some not so well. A recent study of Fortune 100 executives by Manchester Consulting Group found that coaching was effective for all participants and resulted in a return on investment averaging 5.7 times the initial investment.
The following benefits of coaching were cited:

  • Improved Relationships 77%
  • Improved Teamwork 67%
  • Improved Job Satisfaction 61%
  • Improved Productivity 53%
  • Improved Quality 48%
  • Improved Organizational Strength 48%

If your organisation (whether you are an FM provider, or have your own in-house FM team) is to survive and prosper in current climate of rapid change, you need to be more flexible, move faster and learn faster than before. Coaching can help achieve this, particularly if managers train to become coaches themselves or at least learn some basic coaching skills and understand the basic principles. Coaching is generally used for performance management, employee engagement, leadership development and change management.

An International Personnel Management Association survey found that productivity amongst public sector managers increased by 88 per cent when coaching was combined with training (compared to a 22 per cent increase with training alone).

How is coaching different from day to day management?
Often as managers, we feel we should have all the answers – not only do we need to tell our people what the outcome should be, but also how to go about it. Of course, we often have more experience than them; however if you want your people to grow in experience and knowledge, then you need to help them find solutions themselves. Coaching is about asking the right questions to draw out their existing knowledge, experience and skills, as well as their creativity in finding the way forward.

‘But I’m too busy’, I hear you cry!

Much of an FM team’s role is reactive; by coaching them you will allow your people to take a step back and find solutions for those recurring issues. Allow your teams to solve them, and you’ll have more time to focus on being innovative and providing an even better service.

Your role in coaching
The appeal of coaching is that it’s centred on the individual, at a time and place to suit them; you could have a five minute coaching conversation in the corridor with a member of staff, or an hour long formal session.

Here’s what happens:
You agree the focus for the coaching using questions like:

  • What would be the best use of our time together this morning?
  • What would you like to go away from this session with?

Then you can follow one of many coaching models to draw out their existing strengths, know-how and other resources. Some well-known and very effective models are GROW, Solutions Focus, ACHIEVE™ and OUTCOMES™.

Confidentiality is one of the prerequisites of coaching, and should be made clear from the start. Even if you are their line manager, this still applies – people need to know they can speak freely in a coaching situation. It’s often useful to ensure senior managers are clear about this too; if they are aware that you are coaching your people, they may want to know all about what’s happening and the results.

One pitfall that many people fall into when they start coaching is ‘giving advice’. In a coaching relationship, your role is to ask questions, seek clarity where needed, and otherwise to stay quiet and let them answer. In fact, effective listening is the key skill for great coaching.

How will I know if it’s working?
Many organisations demand a clear link between coaching and the bottom line, which can be tricky. Measuring the impact of coaching is simple if you are clear from the start exactly what the person being coached wants to achieve. Begin by agreeing coaching objectives, key behaviours they would want to be demonstrating as a result of the coaching, and why they are relevant to your organisation’s and/or client’s goals. Calculate the likely impact of coaching, taking into consideration other organisational variables such as resource levels, client SLAs and any training and development programmes.

The cumulative effects of coaching take time to filter through your organisation, so you should review the impact on a regular basis. Other measures you can use include 360° assessments and staff surveys, both before and after the coaching, focusing particularly on behaviours. If using 360° processes, make sure you involve your end users too, as these are often the people who will most readily notice a difference in behaviours.

What skills do I need?
Although you can pick up a book on coaching skills and get stuck in, it’s worth undertaking some training to learn not just the skills you’ll need, but also how it feels to be coached, and to see the fast results that can be achieved.

It’s worth networking with others within your organisation who are using coaching skills, as well as some of the coaching circles and networks you’ll find outside. As a coach we never stop learning – nor should we, otherwise we risk slipping back into ‘management mode’.

Although I always have high expectations for my coaching clients, they still amaze me with their resourcefulness and commitment.

Want to know more? Join our ‘FM Coaching Programme’ later this year, where you will learn to be an effective coach, and also have the opportunity to be coached by an expert.

For more information on us, contact Liz Kentish, The FM Coach on Tel: 01778 561326 / 07717 870777 or email: coach@lizkentishcoaching.co.uk

A version of this article appeared in FMX magazine Sept 2010

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