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Coaching to Enhance Performance

The purpose of coaching is to enhance the performance of the person being coached (the performer) through learning and motivation.

Awareness and Responsibility are the two most important words in the language of modern coaching.  The intention of the coach is to enhance the situational awareness of the performer and help them to take personal responsibility for their actions.

Traditionally coaching has been associated with sport, where the coach’s main method of operating was instruction.  For example they would set the athlete goals, show or demonstrate new techniques, give feedback and motivate them through praise and encouragement.  This way of working enabled good levels of performance.

While having some real benefits this traditional approach also has some disadvantages. For example it promotes dependency on the coach.  It presupposes that the coach has all the knowledge and experience necessary to promote improvement.  What it doesn’t recognise is the inherent ability of the performer to improve their own performance through self-discovery and learning.

Therefore modern coaching has shifted the emphasis from being coach centred where the coach holds all the power and control to being performer centred where the performer plays a proactive role in their own personal development.

There are lessons for leaders in business both in engaging their own coach to facilitate performance improvements and in adopting a coaching leadership style to get the best from those they lead.

Asking employees to discuss and agree goals, to take a lead in what they need to learn and how to learn it, to give feedback on their own and company performance before being told, are just some of the ways leaders can help their teams become more self aware and take responsibility for their personal contribution.

It is a two way process where the leader and employee have equal status, where there is true respect on both sides and where the leader has the humility to know that their success comes from growing their people, enabling them to develop independence and interdependence.  This doesn’t mean leaders abdicate their own responsibility or don’t give direction, it just means behaving in a genuinely collaborative way will lead to greater individual ownership and contribution and therefore a more enjoyable and higher performing working environment.  Simple really.

There are two key skills in the coaching process – questioning and listening.  The modern leader or coach should ask mainly open questions, for example, “what do you want to achieve today?”  This has the effect of raising the employee or performer’s awareness of what they want and encourages them to make a choice and take responsibility for their next steps.  It enables them to focus their attention in the present, which is where all performance occurs.

Listening with empathy and attention not only allows the leader or coach to ask the next most appropriate question of the employee or performer but also helps to enhance relationships, creating a win-win situation every time.

What do you think?

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