Coaching has long been considered a valuable tool to help individuals achieve greater success—in life, sports, and at work. In the workplace, coaching supports performance and helps unleash the potential within every employee. Coaching helps individuals improve their communication skills, adapt to change, and develop more productive behaviors. Coaching also inspires continuous learning to improve performance. In fact, one study found that managers who underwent training in conjunction with post-training coaching saw an 88 percent increase in productivity.
When delivered in the right context, coaching can provide your employees with the focus, feedback, and reinforcement of newly-learned behaviors necessary to succeed and thrive. But how can you ensure that those responsible for coaching others do so effectively? One powerful framework for coaching employees is the C.O.A.C.H. model (Connect, Observe, Assess, Clarify, and How-to). Here’s a breakdown of each of the five components that you can use to help employees reach their full potential.
Setting the right context and environment for coaching employees is the first step. Coaches need to connect with individuals in order to help them. By expressing commitment to their employees’ personal growth and development, coaches help individuals connect with the benefits of coaching, making them more motivated to follow through on goals and objectives. Coaches connect with individuals by asking questions that get them thinking and talking about their challenges, providing cues that the coach can use as the coaching relationship develops. It is at this critical stage that the coach sets the tone, establishes trust, and begins to lay the coaching framework with employees.
An effective coach observes and asks key probing questions before diagnosing and advising. For example, one executive coach describes three “in the moment” questions that she asks after observing an individual give a presentation, manage a meeting, or complete an important project:
1. What went well?
2. What didn’t go as well as expected?
3. If you had a do-over, what would you do differently?
This line of questioning helps the person being coached see opportunities for improvement at the same time that the coach is beginning to formulate a roadmap for their performance improvement.
Coaches can help their employees unleash their full potential by assessing their behavior. Coaches rely on assessments to measure decision-making style, openness to feedback, and an individual’s approach to ambiguity. In addition, an assessment like 360-degree feedback not only helps a coach understand how someone is perceived by those around them, but it can also illustrate how the individual’s performance compares to the demands and challenges of their job. Once the feedback from the assessment is reviewed with the individual, the coach can help them understand the behavior changes required to address the feedback received from their manager, direct reports, and peers.
Some useful tools that aid coaches at this stage of the C.O.A.C.H. model include:
360-degree or 180-degree feedback tools
Questionnaires and surveys
4. Clarify and Communicate
Clear feedback is the only way for employees to understand what, how, and why to change. One way that coaches can provide clarity on learning objectives and outcomes is with a training session debrief. When participants debrief with an experienced facilitator after each training exercise, they training activities translate to real-world outcomes. This allows them to see how their behavior can be adjusted or improved to help their performance.
Another way to practice clarification is through an exercise like coach the builder, where an individual, the “builder,” is tasked with building a structure out of blocks. The builder must take direction from a delegator who is relaying information from a designated leader. The leader can view what the structure should look like at the end of the exercise, but the delegator and builder cannot. In this exercise, individuals learn the importance of listening carefully, asking clarifying questions, and providing helpful information as they work together to reach a shared goal.
5. How to Change
Coaching explains, teaches, and demonstrates how to close the gap between actual and expected performance. Once an individual recognizes the opportunities for improvement, a coach provides the support and guidance that spurs behavior change. Coaches can also demonstrate how to model new behaviors and apply them on a regular basis at work. For example, when an individual receives coaching on how to improve communication with their team, they can immediately practice those behaviors on the job.
The C.O.A.C.H. Model and Experiential Learning
When delivered in the right environment, coaching can be an effective tool to help your employees reach their potential. With experiential training, employees learn how to model new behaviors by doing them. After training, use the C.O.A.C.H. model to reinforce experiential learning by providing critical feedback and support to help employees as they practice newly learned behaviors. When experiential training is reinforced by a coach who connects, observes, assesses, clarifies, and provides how-to instruction, employee potential is unlocked, and performance soars.