Obtaining Positive Outcomes in Business Coaching Sessions
The whole point of initiating business coaching sessions in the first place is to try and obtain a positive outcome which benefits the individual and the business in the future. This means that any meetings between a person and a coach need to have a clearly defined objective. Whilst the exact method or steps to achieve such an outcome can be discussed at future sessions (in which determining these exact steps will be the objective), the initial meetings will still need to have a positive outcome as their goal in reaching agreement with the employee that their actions or behaviour could be improved upon for the future. Whilst the past cannot be changed, they can have a different way of doing things the next time the same or a similar situation crops up.
Whilst the sessions and discussion needs to be able to take its natural course, there does need to be a fairly well defined positive outcome outlined at the beginning so that the dialogue can concentrate on addressing these issues, rather than meandering around and largely avoiding the issue or issues which were the whole point in having the business coaching meetings in the first place! However, it is important that the coach does not state explicitly the outcome that they have in their mind, if indeed they already have one. This is because the two-way dialogue in business coaching sessions is supposed to allow the individual to come up with the goals and action plans largely by themselves in order to encourage ownership, commitment and determination in achieving them. If the manager simply wants to have the person do something in the way in which they have already determined for them, they may as well just issue an order and not have the business coaching meeting at all, although this can have severe consequences on morale and motivation.
Business Coaching Sessions and Generating Ideas
Idea Generation is a Key Component of Business Coaching
One of the primary elements of business coaching is the generation of ideas between the coach and the person or employee receiving the coaching that will help them achieve the ultimate goal of developing themselves and improving their performance in the workplace. Without the generating of ideas, it will be extremely difficult for targets and objectives to be set for the person to work towards between the business coaching sessions. This makes idea generation vitally important to the whole process.
An Employee who is Part of the Goal Setting Process is Much More Likely to Want to Achieve Them
One of the best techniques for generating ideas is to have a constructive two-way dialogue about the issues which the employee faces, and then let them come up with suggestions by themselves. By having them generate ideas, they are much more likely to take ownership of them and be more inclined and more highly motivated to apply themselves to achieving them before the next business coaching session.
The Role of the Business Coach in Idea Generation
Although the business coach may be present primarily to guide, they will often provide valuable input when required. This can include making suggestions as well as discussing the merits of the ideas that are suggested by the employee. It is preferable not to discuss the ideas as they come out, but rather leave the discussion until the end. This is because stopping to talk about each one can be detrimental to the thought process of coming up with suggestions. The best idea sessions should be about coming up with as many ideas as possible to discuss afterwards, some of which will be good and some of which will be bad. The critical issue at this juncture is to come up with the suggestions in the first place before stopping to analyze each of them.
Business Coaching Provides Interactive Sessions
Training Courses by Themselves are Still Useful
Typical training courses which teach information to attendees can certainly provide them with a lot of useful information. They can then take what they have learnt back into the workplace and put it to good use.
The topic of the training course will determine how they make use of it when back at work. For instance, certain types of health and safety training courses may teach information which will hopefully never be utilised, whereas sales or management training will be put into practice each and every day.
The downside of these training courses is that aside from the odd group activity, they will primarily involve a course tutor stood at the front of the room lecturing and talking to the attendees with very little interaction.
This one-way method of communication and teaching does provide benefits, but can ultimately result in certain attendees switching off and losing concentration at various moments throughout the day(s). Consequently they can miss a lot of crucial information, which dilutes the overall effectiveness of the training, and the return on investment that can ultimately be achieved.
The Interactive Nature of Business Coaching
One of the main strengths and advantages of business coaching is the interactivity which is a feature of this format of personal and professional development.
Coaching sessions involve interactive discussions between an individual and a business coach, enabling the time to be 100% relevant to the person's requirements. Whereas training courses will have a number of different people - sometimes from different industries and job roles - attending the programme which can make large parts irrelevant for certain attendees, one-on-one business coaching will ensure that everything that is discussed is laser-targeted to the needs and issues of that particular attendee.
The need to cover prescribed syllabuses and train people of contrasting levels of experience, job roles and industries all serve to make training courses largely a one-size-fits-all approach to employee development. Conversely, business coaching and mentoring facilitates interactive sessions which are entirely bespoke and focus solely upon the issues which are affecting that person and preventing them reaching their maximum potential at work.
So interactivity is key to not only keeping an individual's attention, but also to providing teaching and assistance to them that concentrates specifically on the issues concerning them and suppressing their effectiveness at work.
A Business Coach Also Monitors Performance Over Time
Whilst training courses teach information which can then be put to use when back at work, it is hard for managers and supervisors to continuously monitor how well (or otherwise) that employee is putting into practice the knowledge which they acquired on the course. However, when that person is receiving regular business coaching, the coach will want to know in each session how much progress has been made since the last session in terms of making the changes discussed. The coach and the individual will have collaborated beforehand and between them come up with an action plan for that person to follow.
A key component of the successful business coaching process is following, monitoring, amending, reviewing progress and ultimately completing this plan of action. The length of time this takes will vary greatly depending upon the scale and types of issues being encountered, but progress and achievement will result in a far more competent and effective worker.
Making Use of Training Courses and Business Coaching Together
Of course, coaching and training do not have to be mutually exclusive. As the benefits detailed in the paragraph above show, coaching has a great effect upon improving an individual's performance at work in their particular job role. This also means that it can be used to assist that person implement the new knowledge they acquired on a training course far more quickly and to a much greater extent than if they simply returned to work and were left to try and implement changes to working practices by themselves with no support in place.
Preparing for a Business Coaching Session
Business Coaching for Busy Owners and Managers
Business coaching sessions are often scheduled to fit in around a person's busy working schedule when it would be difficult for them to find the time to attend a classroom-based training course or similar programme to develop their skills and potential. These short but regular meetings will aim to identify the barriers which are holding back the person being coached from fulfilling objectives and maximising their potential at work, and will seek to introduce an action plan to work towards overcoming these particular difficulties.
Effective Planning to Maximise the Time Available
Due to the time constraints that most business coaching sessions are under, it is important that both the coach and the person receiving the coaching come to the meetings well-prepared. If it is the first meeting, the person being coached should come already armed with areas in which they feel they are lacking or could at east do with more development. This list may not be comprehensive and include everything, as more may become apparent as the sessions progress, but it will at least give a good starting platform upon which to build.
The structure of the meeting needs to be planned by the business coach so that the session does not wander and the time is not used up talking about issues which do not serve to achieve the desired outcome or objective(s). Of course, issues may crop up in the sessions that were unexpected and need some time to be spent discussing them through, but it is important not to lose site of the ultimate goal of the session which should be defined at the outset.
Having a clear plan for the direction of the coaching session will make maximum use of the limited time available. Conversely, a coach who just turns up to the session with no plan would find that a lot of time is wasted. The best and most experienced business coaches and mentors understand that there needs to exist a delicate balance between a structured and fast-paced session, but also one that allows for deviations and discussions when they are relevant to the initially-specified objectives. This could involve the identification of additional problems or barriers which were not even considered during the first couple of sessions or during the initial planning stage.
The Room Itself Needs Preparation
When time is short, the last thing anybody wants to be doing is messing about with the room moving furniture or clearing up after the last occupants. This all needs to be done before the allocated time as the individual (and of course the coach!) may have to be somewhere else straight after, meaning that the session cannot overrun. If this is the case then precious time will be lost if it does not start on time.
Logical Steps in Business Coaching Sessions
Time Necessitates the Need for Logical Steps During the Coaching
Business coaching meetings need to have a broadly defined positive outcome to enable the session to stay on track and focus on the specific issues at hand. This is because the time available for the coach and the individual to spend together is often extremely limited, meaning that there is simply not the time available to go off topic and talk about unrelated matters.
It is important though to allow some degree of flexibility, as it is largely an informal idea generation session to create action plans and goals to overcoming barriers. This means that there may be numerous suggestions and discussions which have the potential to lead the session off at a tangent. However whilst the coach needs to keep the session on track, it should not be so rigid or so defined that the coach/manager has already decided what should be done and are only going through the motions of a coaching session to give the impression that they value the employee's input, where in actual fact they have already made a decision and could just give a command and save both them and the employee time.
So whilst the sessions cannot be too rigid and consist primarily of the manager talking at the employee rather than to them, they do need to have some sort of structure in order to achieve the desired outcome. To do this there should be logical steps to the meeting or meetings rather than jumping about, as there is little point in discussing a problem after a solution or the goals for rectifying the situation have been determined.
Why is an Experienced Business Coach So Valuable?
An experienced and highly qualified business coach will have the knack of finding the right balance between too much and too little input into the coaching sessions. They will need to provide some input, as if the individual already knew exactly what to do to achieve their goals then they could simply get on with it without the need for business coaching, but will avoid too much interference so that the person comes up with a lot of the ideas themselves, allowing them to take more ownership of the action plans. Good business coaches act more as a guide, steering the sessions in the necessary directions, rather than a training course tutor who teaches attendees all of the information which will later be required in an assessment.
Although likely to follow similar patterns, each and every coaching session will be different. Whether coaching for individual executives struggling with their intense responsibilities, performing a team development programme or attempting to raise the performance and commitment levels of an individual employee, each coaching session will be unique and shaped by the personal characteristics of those being coached, not to mention their particular requirements according to the industry in which they work in and the job role that they are expected to perform by their manager.
As with many professions, training courses and study will make a person knowledgeable about the subject and how to go about it in theory, but without actual experience in the real world they are highly unlikely to be as effective. Coaching and mentoring is no different, which is why not only are our business coaches here at the BCF Group highly trained, but they also have many years' of experience in providing business coaching and mentoring sessions of various formats to teams and individuals in many different industries. For more information, please contact us online or call us on 0844 800 3295.
A Manager's Role During and After a Business Coaching Session
Engaging the services of an experienced business coach often results in significant gains in performance and effectiveness of a person in their particular job role. The identification of issues and the creation of action plans to overcome these problems proves time and again to be a powerful combination for enabling a person to become a more effective contributor to the achievement of the company's objectives.
Business coaching sessions themselves are only half the story however. In order to advance from just useful meetings to highly effective systems of improvement, what happens afterwards is crucial. Making major changes to factors such as methods of working can be extremely difficult. A person will have gotten comfortable at performing to a certain standard, and making a change designed to increase their performance will take them out of their comfort zone and often into uncharted territory for them. In order to help facilitate this, a manager needs to play a key role both in between the coaching sessions and afterwards.
How Important is a Manager's Support and Guidance?
A manager's assistance is vital for the successful transformation of the employee from one who is underperforming to one who functions at a higher level.
An employee will find it extremely hard to make the adjustment on their own (if it were that easy they could have done it by themselves already), and so will need the support and guidance of a manager to help them through it.
We have already seen in the article "Business Coaches Do Not Provide All of the Answers" that although previous shortcomings need to be identified and discussed, far more is achieved by focusing on the positives going forward than it will be through constantly dredging over past failings.
A manager must therefore be positive about action and the future abilities of the employee. If they are not, and this comes across to the person in the manager's tone of voice or directly through what they say, then the individual will struggle to find the motivation to make the necessary changes.
In fact, a manager needs to ensure that negative emotions, from either party, do not have a detrimental impact on success going forward. If either side is negative about the future prospects, not only can it lead to a lack of motivation, but can also cause arguments and stand-offs between the employee and their manager. If this happens then the person is likely to become defensive and extremely reluctant to make any changes for the good of the company. Managers must work with the employee to resolve issues and improve performance without dictating what should be done or criticising without explaining the reasons, or listening and understanding the causes of the existing issues.
Understanding versus Staying Firm
There is a fine line though between being sympathetic and understanding to an employee's issues, and staying firm insofar as insisting that change needs to happen, and that the current status quo cannot continue simply because it requires effort and alterations to take place. We have seen that workarounds do not work as long term solutions to problems and issues, and that resolutions need to be found and enacted.
What about Managers Receiving Coaching?
Of course, all this is fine for employees who have their line manager and supervisors to support them, but what about when the person being coached is themselves the manager or supervisor? Who supports them?
Unless the individual receiving the coaching is the managing director or chief executive officer, they will have someone who they report to and is effectively their manager. In this case it will be up to them to provide support in the same way as a line manager would to a shop floor worker.
Alternatively, or if indeed coaching is being provided to managing directors or CEOs, then the expertise of experienced business coaches can be called upon to provide this valuable assistance and encouragement. These coaches will have seen identical or highly similar issues with other clients in the past, and as such will be able to provide extremely beneficial advice and guidance. Coaching meetings can be scheduled around the many work commitments that an executive has, and have proven so valuable for many executives in all kinds of different industries that many continue their executive coaching sessions indefinitely on either a regular or ad-hoc basis as issues arise.
Setting Goals and Targets in Business Coaching Sessions
Choosing a Definitive Date for the Next Business Coaching Meeting
At the end of a business coaching session, the coach and the person receiving the coaching will usually determine some goals and targets for them to achieve either in the long term or in between this meeting and the next coaching session, which should be scheduled for a specific date in the future rather than just leaving it open ended and saying that the next one should take place at "sometime".
Goals Need to be Neither Too Easy Nor Too Hard
Whether it is a short term or a long term target or goal, it is important that they are neither too easy to achieve nor too hard. If the goals are too easy, it will not provide much of a sense of achievement, nor is it likely to have developed the skills of the person very much, which is in essence the whole point of them receiving business coaching in the first place. If the goals or targets are too hard to achieve, then the employee may become disheartened and de-motivated if it becomes clear that there is no way that they can achieve it/them. This may lead to a drop in performance in the workplace which is the direct opposite of what the business coaching sessions are trying to accomplish.
Measuring Success or Failure in Goal Achievement
A good business coach will not simply set a target and let the person try and achieve it on their own, but will work with them in the sessions to develop an action plan which they can use to help them realise these goals. For either qualitative or quantitative targets it is important that a pre-determined way of measuring the success or failure of their efforts is established in order to accurately gauge the person's performance.
Following-up on the Business Coaching Session
Action Plans in Business Coaching
A business coaching training session is likely to conclude with an action plan or objectives for the person being coached to achieve before the next session. This is because simply talking about problems and the possible remedies is often not good enough; rather, action plans need to be devised and implemented in order to bring about the positive long-term change that is desired.
Setting Goals and Following-Up Progress
Setting goals and asking the person to do them when they are back in the workplace is fine, but it is far from ideal. For a start they may simply not do them, or do some without others. Even if they do the tasks, they may not do them totally correctly or may be confused after receiving the results and unsure of what to do or what direction to go in next. For these reasons and others, it is vital that business coaching sessions which have concluded with objectives and steps for the person to take are then followed up with at least one meeting later on to evaluate the success or otherwise of the person's efforts.
Follow up meetings should be scheduled at the end of the session rather than simply arranged at a later date as it gives the person being coached a definitive window of time within which to achieve what they have said they will do. It also prevents them or the business coach forgetting to meet again and performing the evaluation of how the person has gotten on if the time and date of the next session is arranged then and there.
Following Through on What is Said in the Business Coaching Session
Following Through With Action Plans Discussed in the Coaching Session(s)
A highly significant part of adding credibility to any business coaching session is the following through on what is said during the meeting(s). This is true of both sides, i.e. the business coach themselves and the person or employee receiving the coaching.
As far as the employee is concerned, if they do not take the time and make the effort to put into practice what was discussed during the session, the whole process will have largely been a waste of time and money.
If action plans which were thought out and created are not implemented, the person will not change or overcome any of the issues which are preventing them from fulfilling and maximising their potential in the workplace.
As stated in the opening paragraph however, following through is not all down to the individual receiving the coaching. If a manager provides business coaching to one or more of their staff members and part of the action plan involves the provision of factors such as additional training or support which is promised but is then not provided when back in the workplace, again the actual coaching session will largely have been a pointless exercise as the action plans cannot be put into practice.
Why Might Plans of Action Not be Followed Through?
This lack of action after a business coaching session can occur for a number of reasons including:
- A lack of motivation, usually from the worker but sometimes from the manager, to act upon what was discussed in the session and make the necessary changes.
- Financial constraints. The individual may require additional support or to attend training courses like a first line management course but if there is no money available to spend on training then the worker may have to go without until there is a budget available, which will halt their development in the meantime.
- Time constraints. Even if there is a clear desire from both sides to embrace the changes, engage in any additional steps such as training and there is money available, it may be the case that a big order to fulfil means the employee simply cannot be spared the time needed. They may be required to spend all of their time at work in ensuring the achievement of the task, in which case changes and development will have to wait until afterwards.