Coaching for Success

The blogs are all atwitter (can we say that these days?) with discussion about coaching.  Who should receive coaching? Executives, or everybody?  Under what circumstances?

There are calls for a “coaching culture” in which everybody coaches everybody else, all  the time.

I admit, I’m attracted to that model.  Except that if one is not already part of a coaching culture, assigning the job to everyone to perform it all the time generally results in nobody doing it ever!

I teach karate.  In the dojo, there’s not a whole lot of formal instruction.  Yes, there’s a curriculum, but the lion’s share of what we do is guided practice.  When a more advanced student is struggling with a complex set of moves, I watch them carefully, trying to discern what the issue is.  Sometimes it’s a specific move, sometimes, it’s the transition between moves. Then I walk through the problem area with them, slowly, talking through the process at the same time.  For some, it’s the words that make the difference. For others, it’s the chance to watch someone do it slowly, for others, it’s slowing themselves down and really paying attention to how they will get from move A to move B, and for others, it’s the additional repetition which helps them finally get it. For most of us, it’s some mysterious combination of the above.

The process is not a whole lot different in the workplace, which is why apprenticeship remains the gold standard for on-the-job training.

How do we build this kind of individualized coaching into our training, in a world where the “coaches” are usually learner’s managers and have full plates of their own work to juggle along with the development of direct reports?

At Q2, we like to structure the initial training with practice activities on which learners receive coaching feedback.  And we REALLY like to have follow-up activities, timed for weeks or months after the initial training event, which formally require coaching feedback.  It’s a way to nudge people into thinking about coaching when otherwise life might intervene.