So far in this series we have looked at how to instruct staff members in a task or skill area, provide effective demonstrations and enable opportunities for them to practice, ideally in a safe or non-urgent environment. An often overlooked and under-rated aspect of coaching is monitoring and observing how the staff member is developing in the task or skill area. This then, is our focus for the next stage of the coaching cycle.
One of the workshops I run frequently is presentation skills. These are highly practical workshops that involve a lot of practice and feedback. When a presentation has not gone entirely as planned, I will often ask both the group and the presenter how it could have been improved. While they often come up with some useful ideas, they rarely get to the root of the issue. And this is where I have to earn my crust as a coach – by not just observing what everyone else has seen but also, identifying what is happening and why. I have to see the things that other people haven’t spotted in order to suggest one or two changes that would transform the presentation.
This is at the heart of coaching observation. The coach has to observe what is happening and also what is not happening. They must see the things that others can’t and identify why things are happening. This enables them to provide feedback that gets to the root of the issue and enables the staff member to improve, noticeably, when they next try to practice the task or skill.
I believe this is an intuitive part of coaching and as such, it is difficult to be specific on how to develop this aspect of the coaching toolbox. However, I offer the following guidance.
1. Observe what is happening but more importantly, identify why it is happening.
2. Observe what isn’t being applied.
3. Ask the staff member to reflect on what you have observed.
4. Get to the root of the issue.
5. Don’t try to improve too many areas at once. Identify the base learning that needs to take place before building on this to improve the finer details later.
In the next part of this series we’ll be looking in depth at the art of providing feedback to staff with a view to reinforcing what they are doing well and improving things that could be done better.
Simon Cooper is chief executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of the exciting new book, Brilliant Leader and architect of the Brilliant Leadership workshops.
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