Choosing the Right Coach for Your Employees
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Your coaching program can have any number of purposes. It may be to help
frontline employees with their immediate job needs and technical skills. Or it
may be to help develop managerial or leadership skills. The skills requiring
development may be for a current or for a future role. Once you have decided why
your coaching program exists and what you want to achieve from it, your next
question revolves around who will take on this important role. Your coach may be
internal or external to your organization. They may be someone who has an
existing working relationship with the employees. Choosing the right coach for
your situation will be a crucial determinant of whether your program succeeds.
What are your options and what are the benefits and disbenefits of each? In this
article, I will look at each of your possibilities in turn.
With this option, I include anyone who is responsible for the work of other
employees and sits higher in the organization chart than those inpiduals. Such
people include the person to whom the employee reports directly (team leader,
foreman, supervisor, etc), people higher up within the same reporting line
(manager’s manager, director, etc) and people higher up, but within another
reporting line (immediate manager’s peer, etc).
Where the coaching is of a more technical nature, choosing the immediate
manager can be an effective choice –provided that the manager is very conversant
with the skills in question. Selecting the immediate manager into the coaching
role can have one or more of these distinct advantages:
- It can cement a stronger working relationship
between the manager and employee.
- The manager is in the best position to convey
the exact job requirements and to give accurate performance feedback.
- It can prod resistant managers to more
whole-heartedly bring about needed workplace changes.
For situations where the coaching is for professional, interpersonal or
leadership skills, choosing a manager higher up the organization’s tree or on a
sideways branch may be more prudent. Choosing a coach that is not in day-to-day
contact with the inpiduals may afford a greater level of objectivity. A second
benefit worth considering is the greater levels of trust and confidentiality
that the increased distance brings.
Selecting a trainer as your coach is a clear choice if your coaching program
is meant to be integral with a training course you are running. The course
trainer can serve as a highly effective bridge between the training program
content and the participants’ application of the skills on the job. Trainers
have the dual advantage of ready expertise in the skills being transferred and
familiarity with the participants’ background, learning styles, and so on. You
will still be wise to verify the trainer’s depth of coaching skills. Some
trainers are excellent at putting on a performance and being center stage, but
fall down when they need to put the participant at the center.
Subject Matter Expert
Where the trainer calls in subject matter experts and the employee’s manager
does not possess the necessary expertise, a third option is to use the subject
matter expert as the coach. This option is also a possibility in cases where the
manager and trainer are not available to fulfill a coaching role. This option
may work well where the primary subject of the coaching program is deep
technical skills, such as engineering or information systems. As with using
trainers as coaches, be sure that the subject matter expert possesses the
necessary coaching skills. In addition, ensure that they have sufficient
resources and time to give credit to the role.
Managers, trainers and subject matter experts acting as coaches are usually
employees of the target organization. However, you may select a coach from
outside the organization. Keeping your coach as an internal resource can have
distinct advantages. These benefits may include:
- Program costs are reduced as employee expenses
are already accounted for in recurring budget expenditure.
- Time is not wasted familiarizing the coach
with the organizational context for the coaching and developing new
- Familiarity with the organization and its
people allows the coach to get things done more quickly.
External Consultant or Contractor
Sometimes those features that make for a good internal coach can turn out to
be handicaps. Here are some characteristics of an external coach that may tip
the balance of choice in their favor.
- The initial unfamiliarity with the employees
may lead to greater objectivity.
- They may have played a part in the change or
training program, giving them a head start.
- Having no previous experience with the
organization, they are more immune from power plays and favoritism
These added benefits will, of course, come with a cost as external coaches
are not on the organization’s payroll. Each program is different, so you will
need to weigh up the pros and cons of using an external coach for your
An employee’s peers are those people whose role is at the same level in an
organization. An employee’s peer can reside within the same organization or in a
different organization, or even in a different industry. Choosing peers as
coaches may seem unconventional and perhaps even misguided. Even though this
type of coaching relationship may lack the formality of the usual coach-employee
relationship, learning opportunities amongst peers happen every day in every
way. Here are some options for facilitating this kind of peer-to-peer learning.
- Set up lunchtime sessions in which employees
take turns to speak on a work topic or invite an outside speaker.
- Encourage employees working within the same
group to take time out to review a segment from a recent training course and
to discuss a related work issue.
- Actively support the use of company-,
industry- and profession-wide forums and chat rooms.
- Set up a corporate wiki and encourage
contributions to external wikis on relevant subjects.
- Promote attendance at special interest group
meetings and seminars run by local professional associations.
- Search out Communities of Practice (CoP) in
the relevant subject area that promote learning for its members using some of
the above methods.
In choosing the right coach, you have a number of choices before you. Your
choice is not necessarily limited to one option either. The more opportunities
you provide for your employees to experience worthwhile coaching interactions,
the better they will be. Providing more and different points of contact helps
overcome the work and personal constraints limiting each employee. Some
employees may not be able to attend lunchtime sessions or work with a coach
after hours. These same employees may benefit from contributing to forums or a
wiki. Making available multiple options also caters to employees varying
learning styles. This does not mean that you need to provide more than one
workplace coach per employee. Setting up a message board or paying for
professional memberships can help provide this expanded array of options.
As you think about who will fulfill the coaching role and what other coaching
opportunities you will provide your employees, consider also the other key
factors that make for a successful coaching program. Ensure that your coach is
skilled in coaching and has the necessary resources and time available. Set up a
coaching schedule and provide training in coaching skills if needed. Also, draw
up coaching guidelines that explain the mutual rights and responsibilities of
coaches and those being coached. Everyone should be clear about how the coaching
program will work. Finally, do the work upfront to settle on measures of success
for your program –and then evaluate how your program measured up to your
objectives. With the right choice of coach and a well designed coaching
environment, you can look forward to achieving your coaching goals.
The above is a condensed adaptation from Leslie Allan’s book,
From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance.
Copyright Leslie Allan
About the Author
Leslie Allan is Managing Director
of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a
management consulting firm specializing in people and process
capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years,
contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and
trainer for organizations large and small. Authors Google+
Mr. Allan is a prolific writer on business issues, with many journal
and web articles to his credit. He is also the author of five books on
employee capability, training and change management. Mr. Allan
currently serves as Divisional Council Member for the Australian
Institute of Training and Development and is a member of the Australian
Institute of Management, the Graduate Management Association of
Australia and the American Society for Quality. Visit his company's Business Performance
web site at www.businessperform.com for a rich source of
information, advice and tools in a variety of management areas.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-10-08 15:19:53 in Employee Articles