Make Your Leaders Everyday Coaches

Organizations that are effective at training managers to coach employees have higher levels of employee productivity, employee engagement and financial performance, according to a November 2011 Bersin & Associates study titled “High-Impact Performance Management: Maximizing Performance Coaching.”

In fact, 73 percent of organizations that are highly effective at teaching coaching preparation also had above-average business results. Of the ones that were average at teaching coaching preparation, only 46 percent had strong business results.

Yet, work still needs to be done.

According to the study, many managers are inadequate at performance coaching, whereas senior leaders do not provide consistent coaching.

For coaching to be effective, organizations must create a coaching culture that supports each of these five conditions of individual development. Grab a pen and see how you rank:

Candor to promote insight. Do bosses and coaches talk openly about expectations, work performance and development needs? Sometimes bosses think it’s faster and easier to just fix things themselves. Coaches should instead be willing to engage in constructive and positive confrontation. Today’s employee actively seeks — and welcomes — feedback and the opportunity to improve.

Trust to foster motivation. Do leaders walk the talk and look out for employee interests? Personal growth, team development and organizational learning should be integrated and the links clearly understood. Coaching must primarily be seen as an opportunity rather than as a remedial intervention.

Support to allow capability building. Do people explore new ideas and consider other ways of doing things? Are there effective mechanisms for identifying and addressing barriers to learning? Before beginning a program, identify cultural and systems barriers to coaching and enhancing capabilities, such as not allowing time for personal growth.

Flexibility to allow practice. Do people take reasonable risks and try new things or are they afraid that any failure will be met with reprimand? Are coaches strong role models for fostering and supporting stretch assignments and appropriate risk taking?

Responsibility aligned with accountability. Coaching is seen as a joint responsibility of managers and their direct reports. Are people held appropriately accountable for meeting their objectives and delivering on commitments? Are there fair and transparent rewards and consequences associated with performance?

Create an Everyday Coaching Culture
Here are three tips for companies to create a culture of coaching:

1. Seed the organization with leaders at all levels who model coaching. Before rolling out an internal coaching program, bring in external coaches to teach senior executives best practices and establish them as role models. Advanced workshops on coaching skills are also effective for cascading tools and practices through levels of the organization.

2. Embed coaching into performance management and talent management systems. Coaching is a skill that’s as important as other functional and leadership competencies. Set expectations for proficiency, measure and review them regularly, demand improvements where necessary and celebrate success.

3. Develop a cadre of master coaches. Select HR staff and a few volunteer executives — people with a natural talent for developing others, willingness to be role models, to coach peers, and in some cases to be an upward coach to more senior managers. Give them the training and tools they need to succeed and lead a center of excellence or community of practice.

The key to ongoing success is to not make coaching an add-on to what leaders are tasked with doing, but rather to make it a core element of everyday organizational success.

Allen Moore is director, executive coaching, at PDI Ninth House. He can be reached at