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Tips for Effective Coaching

6 Essential Coaching Tips for Managers and HR Professionals

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Want to find out about the essential components of a coaching relationship? Executives, managers, and others interested in career growth and development increasingly turn to a business coach for a personally tailored development process.

Human Resources staff and managers need to get on board as coaches or miss this exciting opportunity to influence the next evolution of your organization's management potential.

According to Winston Connor, formerly an HR Vice President and currently an executive coach, "Coaching is a different delivery system for training, since training, especially with long term managers and people who are further along in their careers, is not working. The coach works with the manager to tailor the training program in skill areas where we will have an impact. The coach helps managers make behavioral changes needed for growth."

Connor advises that coaches need to be, "clear on the competencies that have impact on the bottom line. Measure them. Provide support for growth and change. Then measure again."

Connor thinks the HR person should be the change agent within his organization: "He has the opportunity to provide the leadership needed, to become a part of the coaching venture, rather than an obstacle to progress."

Connor also warns internal HR practitioners against, "trying to repackage old skills as coaching. In the consultancy approach, the HR person brings solutions. He is the expert. In coaching, we don't bring the answer. We bring a system, a process for helping the client discover the answers."

Following are additional tips to enhance your success as an HR or management coach.

You Need Permission to Coach

The effective coach defines the boundaries of her relationship with each manager. Is she a trusted advisor and friend? Does she listen and provide feedback? Or, does she help the manager obtain 360 degree feedback and develop action plans to increase his capability as a leader? The agreement the HR professional develops with each manager can be different. The coaching role must be agreed upon to work.

Most importantly, the HR specialist pushes the window with each manager to assist her to grow professionally to promote the success of the organization and of the individual.

Christine Zelazek, SPHR, Director of HR at the Mennonite Home of Albany, Oregon, offers her key strategy for the HR coach: "Set the situation up so the person asks for help, rather than me forcing the help upon her."

The Coach Is Not in Control

The HR professional is a resource for managers who seek out her services. She does not control the relationship or the actions and decisions of the person she is coaching. At best, the HR manager forms a partnership with the coached manager that results in good choices for the organization and personal growth for the manager.

The manager, however, makes the final decision about what she will do in any given situation.

Your knowledge, your effectiveness as a communicator, your developed relationship with the manager and your perceived competence will impact a manager's willingness to use your coaching input.

Be a Knowledgeable Coach and Resource - Tell the Truth When You Don't Know the Answer

A manager or supervisor seeks input from you most frequently when she is uncertain about how she handled a particular situation. Or, she seeks input prior to making a mistake in her handling of an issue.

More recently, managers seek targeted assistance from a coach with their own growth as managers. This means you will most often receive the most difficult and delicate questions. After all, why consult you when she knows the answer?

Recognize too, that sometimes the manager is seeking reassurance and confirmation and may already know the answer to the question she is asking. You will enhance her capabilities and self-esteem if you ask her what she thinks, and where possible, confirm that her answer is the correct path. Your role as a coach is to strengthen her competency, not to demonstrate that you know the answers.

When you don't know the correct answer or are speculating about the right course of action, tell the truth. It is far better to say you don't know, that you will check and find out, than to appear to have all of the answers, and give bad advice. You will ruin your reputation and undermine your credibility as a coach forever.

Help the Manager Develop Her Own Solutions

People generally know what is the right or appropriate thing to do. Often your job is to draw the answer out of the individual. If you give the person the answer, the manager is less likely to own and fully enroll in the solution or answer.

Winston Connor suggests the coach say to the manager, "Let's explore the possibilities. What is it that you really want?" He feels that the, "result will be stronger and richer because we fostered ownership."

You can provide options and recommend resources. You can give your opinion. You can answer questions, but ultimately, the answer must be the manager's. (This is the type of question, you may want to ask: How do you think the situation should be handled? What have you considered doing? What do you think you need to do to move to the next level?)

Practice Highly Honed Communication Skills for Coaching

Listen to hear the specific needs of the manager who seeks your assistance. Don't automatically assume that this question or this situation is like any other you have encountered. Give your customer your full attention and take in information that will lead to insightful, personalized responses to the manager's questions.

Listen also, for what the individual is not saying verbally. Watch facial expression, body language and movements. Listen to the tone of voice and any expressions of emotion. Ask open-ended questions to draw out the manager, such as, "tell me what you are considering doing." Questions that appear to seek out motives such as, "why did you do that?" will shut discussion down.

The Coach Is Always an Educator

As an HR professional or manager in a coaching role, you educate managers and supervisors as you work with them as a supportive partner and coach. Your goal is to make them self-sufficient. You give them the tools they need to be successful in their business-related and interpersonal functions.

You assist by supplying a process they can follow to build their own skills. A manager should leave an HR professional feeling stronger, more knowledgeable, and more capable of addressing the opportunities in the future.

"There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great." --G.K. Chesterton

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