Coaching is about helping other people to learn and to put their learning into effect. Notice the emphasis on the word ‘helping’. Managerial leaders do not always see their work in this light. One said to me ‘I leave that sort of thing to trainers, teachers and counsellors. I have a job to get on with.’ Professionals and their support colleagues are knowledge workers. They are expensive assets. The willingness to invest personally in the development of people goes to the heart of the leadership role. However, it is not only about investment. There must also be a genuine desire to help others to fulfil themselves for its own sake if it is going to be done well.
Most people who are good at coaching say that they enjoy the experience. They take pleasure in seeing others make progress. They also find it a rewarding learning experience for themselves. They learn more about other people and their jobs. They enhance their own skills in the process and they often learn more about themselves generally.
Perhaps you don’t coach at the moment but you are thinking of starting. If so, here is a cautionary word or two. To be effective you really do have to believe in the value of helping others. You really do have to want to do it. You are unlikely to be successful if you simply learn the skills of coaching and apply them in a mechanical fashion. Integrity is crucial. I go as far as to say that if helping colleagues does not give you a ‘buzz’ then it would be better to leave the leadership role to others and concentrate on your professional work instead.
Paul Sharp, Head of Organization Development at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, provides these insights:
We have learnt that what people value most in those who coach them is a genuine desire to help. They ask themselves three questions. Is the coach really interested in me and in the issue that we are discussing? Is the coach really listening to what I have to say? Is the coach influenced by what I am saying? The respect for and commitment to the individual being coached is fundamental.
Capable professionals by definition are good with clients. If you are good with clients then you probably have the ability to coach. In many cases we just have to help leaders to recognize that the skills are there and simply need to be used in a different context. In the end much of it comes down to the willingness to use good relationship skills for the benefit of team members and their performance just as much as to use them with clients.
Professionals tend to have very high expectations of themselves. Accountants especially have had lots of training in spotting the imperfections. They often turn the spotlight on to themselves. They amplify the weaknesses. They magnify the Achilles heel. In some ways this can mean that the most talented professionals create the most insecurities for themselves. Therefore often the role of the coach is to invite the subjects to place the spotlight on their strengths as a basis for building confidence.