Front-line leaders have been grappling with a problem: How can they enable their managers and supervisors to coach their employees, rather than commanding them? One approach is the flipped classroom, which you can read about in part one of this series.

Once you have a flipped classroom, how do you integrate coaching into the design?

Learning Lab: Masterminds (Peer Coaching)

Masterminds are peer-coaching learning labs (virtual or in person) that allow learners to practice coaching and communication skills, as well as receive coach modelling from the facilitator in the process.

Essentially, one learner — known as the “issue owner” — interacts with fellow learning team peers who listen actively and ask questions to solve a real work challenge and/or opportunity. The issue usually corresponds to the leadership module at hand — delegation; conflict resolution; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); etc. The coach-experienced facilitator sets the stage for a psychologically safe and confidential conversation. Through a few rounds of questioning and then developing recommendations as a learning group, peers grow more confident to ask hard questions and develop arguments after listening to others and remain receptive to in-the-moment coaching. The issue owner then walks away with a plan to move forward. It’s recommended that learners enter the classroom with a foundational knowledge of coaching and/or leadership communication through self-directed learning.

Learning Lab: Assessment Feedback in Triads

Behavioral and skills-based leadership assessment results are sometimes difficult to understand on one’s own and might be overwhelming. One-on-one coaching is not always in the cards due to budget and time constraints. Coaching triads can be a useful solution in a learning lab: Teams of three people support one another to make sense of their leadership profile. One person is the coachee, one person is the coach, and the other is the observer. The coach facilitator starts with the larger group on a brief education session to interpret the report and refresh on methods to run the triad, including coaching questions. This is accompanied by a coaching guide that aligns questions to example assessment interpretations. The guide includes how to coach the coach by observing the quality of coaching between the coach and the coachee. The coachee is given the opportunity to reflect on assessment outcomes and is encouraged to have a trusting and brave conversation with their peers. Again, safety and confidentiality are addressed, and this must be an opt-in coaching lab. Triads might also need to be adjusted based on special request. The facilitator can leverage the feedback from the triads to tailor coach education in further modules.

In Between Learning Labs: “The Coach is In” Sessions

One-on-one coaching sessions don’t always require one hour for front-line leaders. After an initial one-hour one-on-one fit and “contracting” session, learners benefit from more frequent, shorter coaching sessions. 30-minute, one-on-one coaching sessions with the coach facilitator will allow learners to check in with their leadership development progress. An experienced coach will follow the learner’s lead on the exact topic of conversation. It might lead to a conversation on changes to goals, an awareness of barriers to be removed or an increase in confidence to stay focused and continue. This is ideal when a relationship has been established between the learner and coach in a few learning labs and/or through peer coaching sessions (e.g., masterminds). On another note, leaders of learners will also benefit from “The Coach Is In” sessions, usually supporting them in their role as coach and how to reinforce their learners’ specific leadership development themes.

After the Lab: Applied Coaching Assignments

After a learning lab, learners are ready to try their new coaching skills on for size with their team. Frontline leaders are ideally armed with an assignment where they must coach their team or a team member on the leadership topic at hand. Coaching competencies are again applied where they must execute activities like having an inclusive conversation with their team, having a constructive feedback conversation using their discussion planner or coaching a high performer towards future succession. The key to success is with the learners’ leader. Extra time must be spent to prepare their leader to engage with them on their activity and identify successful completion. This is an accountability usually set up at the beginning of a program with a “Leaders’ Kickoff” and is reinforced by coach-facilitator notices to leaders and reminders to learners to engage their leader in their results.

Nudge to Acknowledge Progress and Achievement

Measuring leadership and coaching skills has eluded even the most advanced leadership practitioners. However, new artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled employee feedback software is making it easier for coaching and leadership training to be measured in near real time. For example, new technology can nudge learners over time to stay on course and demonstrate better leadership habits. Learners can invite feedback providers to observe and rate select leadership skills using a few swipes on their phone or desktop. Learners receive instant feedback, high-fives, and encouragement to grow skills towards clear baseline of measurement. If built-in from the start and marketed internally, these tools can create automatic accountability structures in flipped classroom training with coaching. Learning leaders receive easy-to-understand analytical dashboards supporting coaching conversations and identifying areas for improvement. Learners are rewarded with points creating motivation and friendly competition among their learning group or work team. Although optional, they even practice writing coaching statements through the tool. Supporting educational materials or “tips” are imbedded for rapid, on-demand access for learners, and they also aid leaders’ ability to coach on results. It’s all in one place.

Frontline leadership development is increasingly important. Finding a way to cost-effectively develop coaching skills is critical to building the right culture where it counts. Leadership is about building trust and a people-centered approach to getting things done. It’s time to get creative to avoid virtual meeting fatigue, while building great coaches. Integrate coaching practices as much as you can into leadership training design. It doesn’t take much. Be deliberate and hire experienced facilitators, connect learners to their development through leadership assessments, use a phased-in flipped-classroom design to empower learners and make room for applied coaching practices such as masterminds, feedback triads, “the coach is in” sessions, and coaching-focused assignments. This is the way to build a coaching culture at the front-line. Our energy client is experiencing an increase in learner motivation and self-efficacy, driven by the fact that they are able to bring personal work issues to a safe peer-coaching, while they also practice applying leadership skills and coaching techniques, receiving formative feedback in the flow of work.

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