In today’s world of work, building a future-ready workforce has become more vital than ever. With the shelf-life of skills shrinking, organizations are embracing new training modalities to keep up with the pace of change. The most impactful change, oftentimes, occurs on a personal level through informal conversations and interactions, leading many organizations to invest in coaching and mentoring programs.

Coaching is becoming an increasingly popular training method. According to a global study of successful coaching practices, among the respondents who said their organization didn’t have coaching programs, nearly 40% in North America and nearly 60% in the international sample said their organization was planning on implementing these programs in the future.

However, building an effective coaching program is not an easy task. Organizations not only need the necessary resources, but leaders must also be prepared to take on a coaching role.

Let’s examine a few best practices for an effective coaching program that can bring lasting change to your organization.

Take a Holistic Approach to Learning

Social support is an integral part of the learning process. A learner’s mental state significantly impacts their ability to learn and apply new skills. When developing a coaching program, learning leaders must take a holistic approach, aiming to not only increase an individual’s skills, but their mental health and well-being as well.

Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack, a non-profit dedicated to improving learning readiness, shares that amid these unprecedented times, the coaching industry was most affected by the new challenges learners were facing. Distracted by common stumbling blocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches had to support learners in new ways. Coaches had to consider learners’ personal well-being and how it was affecting their performance.

“There was an impending need for social support and a personal connection in order [for employees] to learn and perform optimally,” White says. Personalized coaching can help to counteract learning challenges and provide learners with the necessary support to perform their job. Coaches can teach resilience, mindfulness techniques and other skills to improve their performance.

Additionally, finding balance through healthy sleep habits and managing anxiety and fears have become common focus areas for many coaches since the onset of the pandemic. Pam Boney, founder and chief executive officer of Tilt365, a strengths assessment for personality and character development, noted that many people are making decisions and operating in a state of fear. “We are usually not our best when we are operating in fear,” Boney says, “so it is important to talk to someone to get back into balance with ourselves and our values.”

Finding this balance includes healthy sleep practices. “Sleep is such a crucial [asset] in your overall well-being,” Boney explains. “Well-being, happiness and fulfillment — those kinds of topics are really popular right now in a way that they weren’t two years ago.”

When coaches focus on employee wellness, they are fortifying their learners’ resilience and preparing them to adopt the right mindset. This ensures that learners are in the right headspace to learn, thus enabling them to perform at their very best.

Implement Leadership Training for Coaching

Not everyone is a natural born leader. When it comes to coaching, just because a leader has tenure and valuable experience, doesn’t mean they will be an effective coach. Coaching requires a different skill set. It requires building a foundation of trust and providing professional development, rather than just managing and assessing performance.

A common challenge when implementing a coaching program is making sure that leaders have the necessary skills to be effective coaches, shares Justin Hale, master trainer and training designer at Crucial Learning. “When it comes to picking people in our organization that exemplifies the traits of an ideal coach, most times we’d all probably pick the same people in our organization,” Hale said. “But you cannot completely drain the time from [a] small handful of people to provide coaching to everybody.”

That is why leadership training in coaching and accountability is essential. Learning leaders must consider ways to quickly increase the company’s coaching capability and get to a place where more people in leadership have the skills to coach.

“When trying to build competence in coaching internally, you first need to understand what coaching is,” Boney says. “What does it mean to be conscious? What does it mean to choose or regulate behaviors and be a positive influence?” Creating a glossary and making distinctions between the role of a leader versus the role of a coach can help leaders understand what it means to be an effective coach.

And when it comes to coaching, timing matters. Leaders need to provide “the right coaching at the right moment [with] small coaching moments that are specific, deliberate and focused on behavior,” Hale says. “Learners don’t always need 90 minutes of a long, drawn-out discussion.”

Helping leaders at all levels develop effective coaching strategies and techniques is necessary to increase an organization’s coaching capability. For any coaching program to be successful, leaders at all levels must undergo competency training to develop the skills and practices to be an effective coach.

Make Coaching Mutually Beneficial

An effective coaching program isn’t one-sided. Both the coach and the learner can learn and grow through a coaching relationship. An entry-level employee may have limited industry knowledge, but their education and background can be beneficial to a senior leader. A great example is reverse coaching.

“[A] reverse coaching model doesn’t pair people up necessarily for what the mentor can do for the mentee, but what they can do for each other,” Hale says. “These relationships can be very powerful.” For example, a new employee may have knowledge on emerging marketing or social media strategies to share with a less tech-savvy senior employee. Just because an employee may be new or young, doesn’t mean they don’t have knowledge to offer the organization.

Organizations can match employees with a coach based on specific criteria, like career pathway or even personality. Successful coaching is reliant on the strength of the relationship — some people bring out the best in others so character traits should be considered when matching individuals. There must also be a foundation of trust and loyalty for a coaching partnership to flourish, where both individuals are open and receptive to new perspectives.

Moving Forward

An effective coaching program may be the answer to increasing employee engagement, retention and skills development in your organization. However, to be successful, coaching must take a holistic approach that considers not only the learner’s development, but also their personal well-being. Learning leaders must work to ensure that leaders have the skills they need to be a successful coach to form a partnership that is mutually beneficial for the coach, employee and the organization.

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