Coaches shouting and gesticulating to the players in the football and baseball fields are a familiar sight and we have come to expect it in the sports arena.

Coaching is also a term familiar to the business world. But how often, if ever, do business leaders make an effort to understand what these concepts are and how many are willing or able to execute these skills?

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, says there are various leadership styles — coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting and coaching.

Coaching is used least often because many business leaders feel that they do not have the time in a high-pressure economy or the temperament to nurture their staff, who are expected to develop their own potential in their own way, at their own expense.  

Adding value

But studies have shown that coaching is growing in popularity because of the value it adds to employee relationships, team building, as well as individual and organisational productivity.

No one has yet been able to provide a globally agreed model for evaluating the ROI (return on investment) that coaching brings with it but it is accepted that managers now take on more coaching roles with their direct reports.

Coaching means moving away from the traditional control and command model, into one that encourages independent working and responsibility among employees.

It is a collaborative, solution-focused, result-oriented and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, learning and personal growth of individuals.

Coaching is a focused conversation between you and your staff that facilitates learning and raises the performance of your workforce.

A focused coaching conversation is a collaborative process where the employee has clearly defined roles and the coach is responsible for these goals, facilitating the other person’s thinking, keeping track of progress and delivering constructive feedback. It is not focused on problems, but involves listening and asking different types of questions instead of giving advice.

There are some who to tend to use the terms coaching, mentoring, and training interchangeably. However there are some differences.

Coaching is not training. It facilitates thinking and helps people learn on the job without teaching them specific skills or knowledge.

It is not mentoring, as coaching facilitates and increases an individual’s knowledge and thought processes with a particular task or process while the former transfers wisdom from a wise and trusted senior.

Complementary processes

Although there are differences, they are often considered synergistic and complementary rather than mutually exclusive. The general observation is that all these terms promote learning — so a good coach trains and mentors, a good trainer coaches and mentors, and a good mentor trains and as well as coaches. 

One of the most common coaching methods — the Grow model of coaching by Sir John Whitmore — gives illustrative and compelling indications on what coaching stands for.

It offers a framework for structuring a coaching session. It works because it ensures that there is nothing to prevent the staff member from getting to his goal. It checks whether the goal fits the individual’s capabilities, ambitions, personal and professional values and establishes whether the employee needs to change current behaviour or requires new skills in order to reach his desired goal.

The manager coach sees managing people differently from the traditional command and control approach. The individual workforce has different personalities and learning styles and the coach has to tailor creative coaching skills to detect such differences. One size does not fit all and the coach must be sensitive enough of the inner being of each employee to bring out their best.

The focus is on helping the workers understand their own strengths and weaknesses, facilitating the conversations with questions and in an environment of genuine trust and respect. In short, the manager coach has to wear the hats of a leader, facilitator, team builder, peace promoter, a devil’s advocate and even a cheerleader.

Coaching in the business world has never been given more prominence and coverage than today. Managers with little or no coaching skills will find themselves increasingly out of touch with the complexities of corporate culture, while the one who is imbued with coaching skills and a nurturing mindset will be rewarded with the best performance results.