Review sessions are vital to an employee’s development – but without an understanding of how they can bring about solutions, they can be a tedious experience for both manager and employee. Pf looks at a model of how the technique of coaching can ensure that your oneto- ones lead to positive action and, ultimately, improved performance.
THERE CONTINUES to be massive press coverage of how effective the skill of coaching can be, both in the workplace and in people’s personal lives. ‘Life coaching’ is fast becoming popular, and in response there has been a recent explosion of accredited life coaches being churned out by various Life Coach Training Schools. But what about the skill of coaching in business? Can pharma companies employ coaching skills to further the performance and general motivation and morale of their workforce?
Used correctly, coaching can indeed transform performance and ensure that employees remain motivated and loyal to their manager and company. Managers who coach effectively tend to have more stable, motivated and productive teams.
The challenge of coaching
So what is coaching, and what differentiates it from training? There are, of course, coaches in sport, and sometimes that is where confusion arises. A lot of sports coaches are not true coaches: they are trainers. Trainers tend to shout a lot; they direct and they pass on advice, usually based on their own knowledge and experience.
Good coaches are self-aware; they listen intently, question appropriately and challenge assumptions and actions. They will direct, but only when appropriate, and they only use their own knowledge and experience when they know it will move their employees forward.
One of the main differences between a good coaching manager and a directive manager is that the coaching manager does not make judgments and does not let ego get in the way! Coaching aims to enhance the performance of others through feedback, motivation, effective listening and questioning. Above all, coaching aims to enable employees to do it for themselves, promoting positive action that leads to success.
A good manager will realise that coaching is not used in every employee-manager interaction and that, depending on the employee’s motivation and skill level, more directive approaches may be needed. However, in order to coach effectively, a manager must learn to listen more and be prepared to ask questions to gain full understanding, rather than jumping to conclusions or diving in with advice.
A coaching conversation
So what does coaching look like? Various coaching models are being deployed to help managers refine their skills. Here, we look at the OUTCOMES® model, which has been designed to enable managers to undertake more structured and productive coaching sessions with their employees.
I am going to guide you through the model by way of a ‘coaching conversation’ between Felicity, the manager, and Jonathan, the employee.
O – Objectives
First, in all situations it is vital that a desired outcome or objective for the session is identified. Be careful when accepting objectives that cannot be realised within the course of the coaching session.
Jonathan was a new employee and was attending his first review session with Felicity, his line manager. Felicity had contracted well with Jonathan in terms of how they were going to work together. She had also outlined that the review sessions were for Jonathan to use her coaching skills to support him in finding solutions to any challenges and ideas that he had within his role. Jonathan’s mindset, based on his previous experience of managers, was that this ‘one-to-one’ was really just an opportunity for the manager to ‘check up’ on what he had been doing. Jonathan did have an issue in that he was way behind with a report that was due to be handed in to another manager the following week.
At the start of the meeting, Felicity again outlined the aims of the one-to-one and then started the OUTCOMES process by establishing what Jonathan’s objectives were for the meeting.
Felicity: “Jonathan. What specifically would you like to achieve over the next half hour?”
Jonathan: “I thought I would bring you up to date with my overall progress.”
Felicity: “Anything in particular you would like support on?”
Jonathan: “I don’t think so.”
Felicity: “If there was one issue in particular where it would help your progress to find a better way forward, what would that be?”
Jonathan: “Well, I do have to get a report in and I am already behind schedule. I would like some support in getting this finished.”
U – Understanding
It is vital that the manager fully understands the reasons why the person being coached wants to achieve a particular objective. It also helps if the person being coached understands why they want to achieve the goal.
On many occasions, employees identify objectives that they think the manager wants to hear. This may happen if the employee sees the one-toone as an assessment rather than a developmental meeting.
Felicity: “This report that you have to get completed, tell me why it is important to you that you get it done, and on time.”
Jonathan: “I am new to the company and I want to impress, so getting this report in on time shows that I am both keen and capable. If I don’t get it in on time then there may be some questions asked about my capability and commitment.”
Here, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Felicity to jump in and start giving advice on how to finish the report. This is the typical manager’s response. But Felicity, by asking the question as to why it is important for Jonathan to get the report right and on time, is ensuring that Jonathan is identifying and reinforcing within himself the need to get the report right. He is now more open to Felicity’s coaching, and she is now more aware of Jonathan’s desire to get the report right.
T – Take Stock
The next step is to establish the current position in relation to the overall objective. In Jonathan’s case, this is to ensure that he has the tools and drive to complete the report.
Felicity: “So, Jonathan, it transpires that you have a report to finish by next week and that you feel you are slightly behind with this.”
Felicity: “How useful would it be if we worked on this together over the next halfhour so that you can go away from here confident and with further information that will enable you to complete the report?”
Jonathan: “Very useful.”
Felicity: “OK. Tell me more about exactly what stage you are at with the report.”
Jonathan: “I have written the executive summary, but I am struggling to find the information I need to complete the report.”
Felicity: “What information specifically do you feel you need?”
Jonathan: “I cannot find the sales data for Product X from the last three years.”
Felicity: “If you were able to access this data, would that be sufficient to complete the report?”
Jonathan: “Well, yes. Although I may also need a bit of support to graph the figures.”
Felicity: “If we got you support to be able to graph the figures, would this mean you could now complete the report?”
Felicity has established the current situation. They have both ‘taken stock’. Felicity must now establish and clarify the exact gap that has to be closed.
C – Clarify the Gap
It is important that the manager now establishes exactly what has to be done in order for the employee to realise their objective.
Felicity: “Jonathan, exactly what sales figures do you require to finish this report?”
Jonathan:“I need sales per year, by quarter and by month, along with growth and market share. I need to present these graphically. I would like to do decent line graphs and pie charts, but don’t know where to start.”
Felicity: “OK. So if we can enable you to get the figures that you require, you will have achieved your outcome?”
The outcome has now been defined, the reasons established and the exact amount that has to be done identified. Felicity must now ensure that she continues to coach Jonathan appropriately rather than just telling him where to get all these figures.
O – Options Generation
Felicity: “In terms of sales figures, what have you done so far in attempting to get these?”
Jonathan:“I looked at the Sales Department’s recent communication, but it only gives figures for the last six months. I need three years’ worth. I left voicemail messages and sent an e-mail, but to no avail. ”
Felicity: “Where else could you try?”
Jonathan:“I could speak to IT, I suppose. They should have all the data on file somewhere.”
Felicity: “Anything else you could do?”
Jonathan:“I really should chase up the sales guys. I actually don’t like not receiving a reply to messages that I have left!”
Felicity: “What about learning how to graph the data?”
Jonathan:“IT as well?”
Felicity: “Could be! You may also find that both IT and the sales people will have the capability to show you how to present your report. So where are you now with a way forward?”
Jonathan:“I am going to chase up the sales guys again, perhaps even go over to their department as opposed to leaving voicemails or e-mails. I will also check with IT.”
M – Motivate to Action
The temptation will be for many managers to leave the coaching conversation at this point, but it is important that you check the motivation and capability of the person to carry out the tasks. Otherwise the action may not happen.
Felicity: “Great. How confident do you feel about approaching these departments?”
Jonathan:“Now you mention it, I don’t really know anyone there and as I am new they will not know me. So I suppose, not as confident as I would like.”
Felicity: “What do you need to make you feel more confident?”
Jonathan:“Perhaps a personal introduction. Or even if I could just use your name?”
Felicity: “Sure, just say I sent you over and you are probably best to seek out James in IT and Sally in Sales.”
E – Enthusiasm and Encouragement
At this stage the employee should be motivated to action, and now it needs some reinforcement from the manager.
Felicity: “I am pleased with your progress, Jonathan, since you have been with us. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the effort that you are putting in.”
This doesn’t take long to say, but it can be worth a lot to an employee to hear these words. Sadly, too many managers fail at this juncture – and very few then offer support.
S – Support
Felicity: “Is there any way I can be of support in enabling you to complete the reports?”
Jonathan:“At this stage I have all the information I need to move forward. If, though, I can’t contact James and Sally for whatever reason, can I give you a call?”
Felicity: “Sure. Try these people and their departments first. I am sure they will help you out.”
And so, by the end of our coaching conversation, we have a situation where the employee has arrived with an issue and left with action and motivation. He also has the satisfaction of knowing that his manager is there if he ever needs support.