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Coaching …what is it…really?

Daniel C. Olsen, Senior Consultant, SDAO

You hear the term “coaching” used often. But what is effective coaching? How often are you actively involved in coaching one of your personnel? How comfortable are you coaching another person? Do you see an improvement following the coaching session?

Okay…what comes to mind when you think of “coaching”?

Most likely, you will think of an athletic coach. Usually speaking in a loud and autocratic manner. And usually, the coach gives instructions to players under his charge. While this may be a stereotypical image, it is not the correct one for the true coach. In fact, great coaches are far from the image.

What is your definition of “coaching”?

How do you approach “coaching”?

When are you “coaching” an individual, what process do you employ?


Definition of “Coaching"

Coaching can be defined as one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball interaction, resulting in a positive change in behavior or skill. Coaching is not done through emails or text messaging. It is an up-close and personal experience.

It is respectful. It is a collaborative effort that is mutually beneficial for both parties which share responsibility for the outcome.

Coaching is an ongoing management strategy for sustained superior performance.

People may provide satisfactory results because they are forced to do so. Superior and outstanding results are produced by people who want to increase quality and productivity by increasing employee commitment. This is where true coaching mays a difference.

It is important to remember that effective coaching is dependent upon developing a personal relationship which builds trust between the parties.


Dimensions of “Coaching"

Dr. Dennis C Kinlaw in his book Coaching for Commitment (an excellent book which you will enjoy reading) identifies the functions, or dimensions, of coaching. They are:

· Counseling assists in the person being coached to develop self-sufficiency by identifying problems, challenges and better understanding one’s own feelings and behaviors. These

sessions provide opportunities for a person to express their concerns, ask questions and vent their frustrations.

· Mentoring helps the person being coached to understand the political issues, cultural values of the organizations including organizational goals, values, and priorities. It is an opportunity to direct networking and interpersonal relationships.

· Tutoring develops technical competency. This function focuses on Continuous improvement of skills, knowledge, and abilities.

· Confronting is designed to stop behaviors, clarify expectations, and identify performance short falls. When confronting behavior, you can encounter resistance to change. This is expected when discussing the individual’s need to modify behavior when interacting with other individuals in a team effort.


Coaching Principles

Coaching principles assist you through the process of coaching another person. These principles should be clearly understood before undertaking coaching sessions.

Coaching is a mutually beneficial process. Both parties gain, or receive benefits, including improved performance, personal satisfaction and developing trust.

These principles include the following:

· Two-way communications. Both parties must discuss together

· Respectful communication. Coaching is to build the other party, not to degrade them.

· Issue focused. Coaching sessions should be disciplined and focused to stay on track. Do not get sidetracked or off the issue.

· Solution-oriented. Whatever the topic of the session, discussions should be explore possible options

· Collaborative responsibility. Coaching is not one-sided with one person telling the other. It is working together in a collaborative manner. And each party is responsible for participating.

· Candor. It is important to be open and honest.

· Coaching sessions should be short in length. The starting point can be fifteen minutes. The length of the session could be longer if necessary. However, it is better to have short but frequent coaching session. The issues should be “bite size” and easy to digest. The legendary basketball coach John Wooden had his practices outlined on 3x5 cards timed to the minute of what was to be covered. He was very disciplined about time and effective.


The Importance of Process

The coaching process is important. It should be presented in a constructive, consistent, orderly, and predictable manner.

You should have a beginning, middle and end. Begin by stating the reason and subject of the session. Examples could be planning, problem solving or innovating. Then proceed to discuss the subject and. If necessary, explore options. Then reach a desired resolution and agree upon it.

A reason many coaching sessions are not effective is that you do not follow a process. A process which is consistent, constructive, orderly, and focused will enhance the coaching session and effectiveness.



Coaching is an effective managerial strategy. It is a “one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball interaction” between two people resulting in a positive change in knowledge, understanding, behavior or skill.

The functions or dimensions of Coaching are:

· Counseling

· Mentoring

· Tutoring

· Confronting

Build your coaching on principles that include being respectful, collaborative, constructive and frequent.

The coaching process is important. It should be presented in a constructive, consistent, orderly, and predictable manner.

Effective coaching helps to build trust between both parties resulting in a commitment to continuously improve and sustain high performance.