As far as both training courses and business coaching are concerned, a factor which greatly enhances their effectiveness and impact is that of being continuous rather than a single one-off session. Whilst single sessions will more than likely bring about some benefit, either through improving a person's knowledge or providing them with useful tips for dealing with a situation, only continuous development will significantly and permanently boost their understanding and effectiveness when it comes to their performance in the particular job role.
Whilst continuous training and development has long been understood as necessary for certain topics such as health and safety training where knowledge needs to be continually refreshed so that individuals do not forget vital pieces of information, for other subjects like business coaching and the development of interpersonal skills managers may think that one course or session will suffice. They forget or do not realise that knowledge and personal development will be far greater and long-lasting if the worker or workers are provided with training over a period of time in regular sessions.
This is especially true where business coaching is concerned. A key component of successful business coaching is the creation and setting of action plans, evaluating how successfully (or otherwise) the individual has been in implementing the changes, and further refining actions and targets as the workplace situation evolves and the person adapts to changing conditions. This is particularly the case when business coaching sessions are provided to workers, managers or executives who are experiencing major change and upheaval in the workplace, often as their duties change due to a promotion, relocation or change to the company structure such as a merger for example.
Although providing a one-off coaching session will provide some useful tips, eliminating this facility of setting, evaluating and refining plans and targets will take away one of the most important aspects and benefits of business and executive coaching, which will blunt its overall effectiveness. This is why many executives and senior managers who receive executive coaching do so sometimes for an indefinite and ongoing period, continuing long after the original situation which compelled them to seek out a qualified business coach has passed, as the ongoing process and continual setting and evaluating of action plans devised in partnership with the coach allows them to carry out their job in a much calmer, organised and ultimately effective way.
A significant element of the initial meetings with a business coach involve the creation of action plans. These plans and the discussions which surround them will not only determine the goals and objectives that the individual or their manager would like the person to achieve and the level they would like them to reach, but will also outline the methods as to how the person will achieve those targets.
In order for effective plans to be created for the achievement of the goals, it is necessary for the coach and the individual to not only discuss, but also to work out and write down exactly why those goals are being targeted and what the desired end result is.
For example, a manager in the marketing department saying a generalised statement such as "To improve communication skills" is far too non-specific, not easily measured, highly subjective and has no clear purpose. A much better goal to have is one such as "To improve communication skills for more effective team working with other colleagues, with the intention of increased idea generation for new advertising methods."
Not only does this provide a much clearer intention as to why the person is receiving the business coaching and any other relevant training courses alongside the coaching sessions such as management training, but also provides a greater opportunity for measuring the progress made over a certain time period as the coach and the individual can measure their success (or otherwise) against how well they are achieving the intended goals.
Measuring success is a key part of the business coaching process. A person who is struggling to implement the changes may need further coaching/training, or a slight revision of their development plan.
With a general goal statement like "To improve communication skills" this will not be possible as a person could just say "Yes it is improving" and this will be difficult to dispute. If the goal is "To improve communication skills for more effective team working with other colleagues, with the intention of increased idea generation for new advertising methods" then this will be much easier to measure as the person and their team will either be coming up with more advertising methods or they are still struggling. Sometimes even more exact targets and objectives can be set such as producing an exact number of something which makes measuring success even easier.
Each person's case and business coaching sessions will be different, so it is difficult to provide exact examples of targets and goals which may be set. This is one of the unique benefits of business coaching over traditional training courses, in that the sessions and the help/advice given is uniquely tailored to the individual, especially as the most effective business coaching sesions are run on a 1-2-1 basis.
When it comes to the setting of performance targets and goals for employees at the end of a business coaching session it is important that these goals and targets are determined with the employee rather than the coach or manager setting them for the person to do. This is because if the employee is simply given a list of targets they may not be motivated to achieve them, particularly if they consider them to be too difficult to ever attain. If the manager or coach has given them the targets to achieve then the employee can just blame the manager for setting unrealistic targets.
However, if the desired targets and outcomes are discussed with the person during the business coaching sessions and are set with their input and consent, then they are much more likely to take ownership of them and work hard towards their achievement, as if they did not think they were attainable then they should have said so in the session before they were set.
A good coach will provide the guidance required for the person to largely come up with their own goals and targets in accordance with what the long term objective of the business is. This will almost certainly give them much more motivation to achieve the targets as they will feel responsible for their setting. This responsibility and commitment building amongst workers is one of the primary objectives of business coaching and in itself will be a significant step in the development of company employees.
For managers who engage in business coaching with their employees, one of the fundamental components will involve the setting of targets and objectives for them to achieve. It is important that these targets are set WITH the employee (see section above) as a result of having meaningful discussions rather than just simply issued to them and telling them to get on with it or else.
This can often be hard for managers to do, particularly if they are an inexperienced or a new manager who has little to no experience in managing people or setting goals and objectives for others, and it can be difficult for them to know where to start or how to go about it. In this case it can be extremely beneficial for the manager to practice on themselves first by looking at their own tasks and duties and setting themselves goals to try and achieve. These goals should not simply be random meaningless ones just for the sake of practice, but should have the intention of developing the skills and effectiveness of the manager. By doing this and measuring their own performance in terms of how well or otherwise they have achieved the targets and calculating how beneficial it has been for the business, they will be in a much more capable position when it comes to using the same technique on others in a business coaching environment.
By doing this not only will the manager gain experience in how to assess, set and measure goals and targets, but will also further their own skills set and management ability.
Although in previous business coaching articles on this site we have seen that too much interference and checking up on an employee once they have been delegated a task to do can be damaging to their motivation and confidence, we have also seen how it is just as important to perform some monitoring and checking of their progress. This is to ensure that they are on the right track and what they are doing is what the manager expects and requires of the work which they have delegated to them.
A failure to do this can result in the employee going off at a tangent and producing work which, whilst it may be of a high standard, does not fulfil the desired criteria. This then means that the manager has to do the work which they could have done in the first place, without the additional delay that has now been incurred.
Delegation is a hard skill for a manager to learn and to feel comfortable with, often coming through a combination of training and hands-on experience. However for those that do manage to delegate some of their workload to their staff members, they will usually be rewarded with more valuable time with which to get on with other tasks.
It is imperative though that managers use a portion of this extra time to monitor the progress of the work being done, as it will be all too easy to revel in and celebrate this newly-acquired time and freedom and jump excitedly into tackling a large managerial issue, only to forget that they need to use a small portion of this available time to ensure that the work they have delegated out is being done correctly.
Delegating work to others does not mean it can be swept under the carpet and put out of mind. It still needs the soft-touch supervision and monitoring required to ensure that the employee keeps on track, but does however mean that the manager does not need to get bogged down in the time-consuming aspects of the task.
We have already seen how important it is in the business coaching process to set specific development goals and targets. A failure to determine any objectives, or even ones which are too general and not specific, will make it hard or impossible to measure success and progress as the person implements what has been discussed during their business coaching sessions.
Rather than waiting to the end (if indeed there ever is an end to their sessions with the business coach, with many people, especially executives, choosing to receive executive coaching indefinitely), it is extremely useful and necessary if a person truly wishes to develop, to introduce checkpoints at regular intervals.
With business coaching and training provided over a long period of time, it is important that regular progress checks are made and meetings scheduled between the business coach and the coachee. Not only will these sessions evaluate the progress which the individual has made since the last coaching session, but it can also highlight any requirement for a change in tactics or development plan.
Circumstances and even job roles can change since the introduction and creation of the original plan, and it may be the case that an entirely new set of goals and objectives need to be drawn up to better suit the new requirements and demands which the altered situation has placed upon the individual.
In fact, without checkpoints and regular progress evaluation sessions, an individual will primarily be left to their own devices and will often not bother or soon forget to implement any recommended changes, and will simply slip back into their previous ways of doing things. If this happens, there will have been very little point in providing them with business coaching and/or training in the first place.
Whilst checkpoints and progress meetings can be good for evaluating progress, they can also serve as a motivational tool for the individual actively working towards achieving their set targets when they know that they will have to discuss and report on their achievements soon with the business coach. If they go along to the session and have to explain that they have not even tried to implement any of the suggestions then it will result in a very awkward and embarrassing session for them!
The BCF Group have evolved from the Business Coaching Foundation, which was established in 2001. We have leadership development and business coaching at our core. Having representation from global learning leads, executive coaches and talent development specialists, we deliver accredited people development programs.Find Out More
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