Within the world of business and corporate leadership, there has been a paradigm shift in the methodologies associated with traditional management and executive leadership. Businesses of all sizes have begun to invest in the research and implementation of different types of management styles to ensure that internal teams (personnel) are conducting their affairs optimally, efficiently, and effectively. One method that corporations have used is the study, assessing and implementation of servant leadership methodologies, while another is the utilization of coaches, who act as a combined force of proactive leadership and professional development mentor.
Said coaches can be divided into two categories:
- External coaches: Outsourced, external coaches are those who are hired to aid a team with acquiring new skills, enhancing old skills, and learning new tricks of the trade.
- Internal coaches: Internal coaches are typically leaders that help their team members with their professional development and evolution.
Internal coaches objectively aid their team with their professional evolution. They are adept at leaving behind preconceived notions about their team members so they don’t get in the way of their members’ development.
Internal coaches employ a number of key skills to enhance the efficiency and productivity of a business team and to be optimal business coaches:
- Goal-setting: The ability to effectively plan and strategically set realistic but ambitious goals for one’s team is critical to being a business coach – one who must know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.
- Observation skills: Being able to observe with a critical and analytical eye is key for successfully managing a team/projects and ensuring that everything is on track.
- Emotional Intelligence (empathy): Using soft skills to connect with team members, understand their struggles, and help them overcome obstacles is key to enabling personnel to grow and complete their own and corporate goals. Coaches must know how to psychologically and emotionally understand one’s employees to see where team members fall and fail and help them succeed.
- Listening skills: Two more obvious leadership and coaching traits are listening skills and communication skills. Proactively listening to team members can help coaches to better understand how they can serve their team and help them grow, thus increasing corporate productivity.
- Communication skills: Communication skills entails some of the most valuable skills that a leader/coach can have, in that how people perceive what is said will dictate their actions, which can have a critical effect in the workplace where a leader is attempting to guide his/her personnel in how to optimally complete a task.
- Purposely curious: Curiosity is the precursor to innovation, knowledge, and personal growth. Being curious is key for both leaders and personnel, wherewith the former, leaders/coaches must always approach an issue with an open mind and a willingness to learn a new method for more optimally solving a problem. Coaches can grow their knowledge and understanding of their team members via purposeful curiosity.
- Evaluation skills: Evaluating skills are key for a coach to know how well their team members are performing, which requires a critical eye and an objective understanding of how to evaluate very different types of workers.
- Constructive Feedback: Giving feedback is important for workers to improve. Knowing how to give feedback – not just what to say, but how to say it – is critical for the success and professional development of team members when working under a coach.
Mastering these eight skills can allow a business leader to foster more professional growth for team members, which translates to more efficient work, and a more productive organization with a better bottom line.
What is Coaching?
Coaching is proactively helping a member to gain new skills and perform a task in a more optimal manner and is typically carried out by a senior member with years of experience and knowledge to impart. Business coaches specifically help organizations and teams set goals and reach their strategic vision, while also actively helping the business become more optimized in a hands-on fashion.
Coaching vs. Mentoring
While similar, business mentoring is quite different from coaching in many ways and is more associated with passively giving advice on personal member growth and giving goal-oriented suggestions in a hands-off fashion. Essentially, mentors are professional guides and advisors, while coaches are hands-on teachers.
Coaching vs. Telling
One reason why there is such a focus on less-traditional methodologies of leadership within business organizations is that non-traditional methods help team members discover how to do their job better, while more traditional leaders simply delegate work and tell personnel what to do. While it is important for business leaders to effectively manage tasks and proactively ensure that employees do their job, business coaches/leaders also help ensure that their team members grow enough, and are equipped with the skills, tools, and training to complete work effectively and efficiently. This not only ensures that work is done, but that it is done correctly and optimally.
Internal vs. External Coach
As noted before, internal coaches and external coaches are different and utilize different skills and approaches to fulfilling their jobs. While external coaches come to the table not knowing internal team members and not having the same investment in internal operations/decisions, external coaches must overcome subjectivity and bias of members they know and must utilize their expertise and knowledge of the organization so that the best decisions are made. Both types of coaches help businesses better their internal operations and help team members grow and work together more effectively, but they do so in different ways.
Why Coaching Works
Coaching works for the same reason that teaching works – coaches help team members learn new skills, not just in theory, but in practice (hands-on approaches). When team members learn a new concept or theory, they can apply it in the workplace at the instruction of a coach, and can immediately see how the new methodology is performed, and its outcome.
Our Brain Maps Learning And Habits
The human brain is able to utilize its different neural networks and neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change its structure when learning) to gain new information that can be structurally associated with a new experience or concept, which is then “saved” into short-term or long-term memory areas of the hippocampus (among other areas). Humans learn well by repetition, which continually changes neural networks and memory centers until a novel approach to solving a problem becomes “hard-wired” in practice. This can result in habits, pattern-recognition, and an innate ability to switch-up how a task is completed being “mapped” by the brain. This allows team members to learn brand-new ways of meeting goals once new skills are “embedded” – or hardwired – into them by a coach’s leading, teaching and training.
Our Brain’s Capabilities
The human brain is the most complex machinery in the known universe. As noted by BrainMD, the brain “…is estimated to have over 100 billion neurons (also called nerve cells or brain cells), which is about the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Each neuron is connected to other neurons by up to 40,000 individual connections (called synapses) between cells. Multiplying 100 billion neurons times 40,000 synapses is equivalent to the brain having more connections in it than there are stars in the universe. A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons and 1 billion synapses, all communicating with one another” (“Why Your Brain is Like the Universe”). Since the human brain has 100-1,000 trillion synapses, the human brain has more possible connections than there are atoms in the universe.
Different, similar-functioning neural units are called neural networks, which can be altered by neuroplasticity to form better, more highly functioning neural structures (new neural networks). This happens as a result of different experiences, including learning, i.e. being coached. To this end, coaching is a valuable way for businesses to help team members grow, gain new knowledge and skills, and become better professionals – all through “hard-wiring” their brain in a more optimal fashion (that is, learning). This is as opposed to being told what to do, which doesn’t result in an optimized brain.
1. Goal-Setting Skills
Knowing how to set goals is an effective way for maintaining productivity within any organization, and allows a company’s strategy to be implemented in a way that drives the company towards the fulfillment of its long-term business vision. Goal-setting is very critical for business coaches in that they help organizations to better plan each successive project to align their strategies with all of their overarching goals.
2. Observation Skills
Business coaches must have keen intuitive skills, an analytical mind, and the ability to both observe team member’s weaknesses and strengths. This skill set ensures that they can aid in their team’s professional development, and to observe the business market, the workplace culture, and how processes are completed. Since coaches essentially “teach” team members within a company how to operate more optimally, they simultaneously help companies to evolve their workflows and processes to meet their goals more effectively, so observation skills are key. The added ability of a coach to recognize member strengths and weaknesses without having to communicate directly – that is, to communicate with, and understand, body language – is important for daily interactions.
3. The Skill Of Being Able To Tap Into A Mentee’s Emotions
Understanding how team members need support helps them to become their best and to leverage their skills in a way that benefits their team and the entire company. As a business coach/leader, knowing how to offer support requires empathy, emotional intelligence, and sharp intuition in using the right approach with team members.
4. Listening Skills
Listening skills are key to successfully engaging with team members to guide and teach them on their journey to professional maturity. While some may think that a coach must talk more in order to teach, proactively and objectively listening is also important to ensure that the needs of team members are properly understood, and to make sure that everyone has an equal voice, all members are respected, and all issues are resolved with transparency.
5. Communication Skills
Communication skills are critical to ensuring that teams operate efficiently within a company, and are associated with “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence that allows a coach to connect with – and truly understand – the concerns, ideas, and solutions presented by employees. Communication skills include understanding the concept that it’s not what leaders say, but how it is said and how it will likely be interpreted.
6. The Skill Of Being Purposely Curious
Being curious means having an inquisitive mind that asks the right questions to team members in a way that gives them the ability to foster and develop their own ability to solve problems while using methodologies and skills taught by the business coach. Good coaches ask the right questions of members to understand their struggles and improve their learning and allow employees to collaborate with the team to enable knowledge to turn into new discoveries.
Besides being transparent and objective, good business coaches are not biased based on preconceived notions and will avoid judging any team members, but allow their merit and actions to speak for themselves.
7. Evaluation Skills
If a coach is to help team members grow, they must know how to analytically and thoroughly evaluate a job done by the employee and to communicate how the member should improve. Essentially, a coach should properly evaluate a task, project or workflow done by a team member and then address his/her mistakes, and also how to improve the member’s capabilities after the evaluation.
For example, testing a team member’s ability to work with others on a regular basis, on different “checkpoints” of a project can help him/her determine how well they are growing and maturing as a professional.
Coaches should not act punitively in a premature manner – coaches should be clear and transparent about all rules, processes, instructions, procedures, and regulations associated with projects before beginning to avoid unnecessary punishments, issues, and conflicts within the team.
8. The Skill Of Providing Constructive Feedback
Feedback and criticism are important parts of helping team members to grow and are a critical part of any coach’s job. There is, however, a right way to give constructive feedback so that the receiver will understand clearly how to improve and will be motivated to do better in the future. In that way, constructive feedback should not result in hard feelings, which will result in better team morale. Coaches should also know how to receive feedback and encourage those that they coach to speak up on issues they may have with their coach’s methods via survey sheets, written reviews, etc.
The Results Of Coaching
Business coaching is one of the most effective ways for team members in an organization to learn from example and to gain the knowledge and experience of a senior external or internal coach. When business leaders operate as coaches as well, they have the ability to greatly help personnel develop on a professional level, while also “optimizing” employees to utilize more effective methodologies and to use skills that can make them more effective. This results in a more organized, better working team, greater business efficiency, and higher productivity, which increases the corporate bottom line.
At the same time, ineffective coaching can result in confused team members that are unable to work more effectively, and may even work less optimally. A skilled coach requires a certain set of skills associated with communication, emotional intelligence, and an analytical mind that can ultimately help to optimize a team, as opposed to making a team more ineffective at their work.
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