Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Coaching Staff - Part Three

Previously in this series we looked at how to provide staff members with clear instruction and an effective demonstration. In this third part of the coaching series, we’ll be looking at providing staff with opportunities to practice what they have learned. This requires that first we look briefly at the art of delegation.

Essentially, there are two reasons for delegating to staff members – firstly, to get the job done and secondly, to develop the individual. In delegating simply to get the job done you should primarily focus on ensuring the staff member is already capable of what you are asking them to do. Delegating to develop the individual is what concerns us here.

When looking to provide opportunities for the staff member to practice what they have learned, the leadership challenge is to try and create a safe environment. On occasion, there might be opportunities for safety to be created via a simulation but more often than not, safety comes by the delegation being in a non-urgent situation. This provides the coach with an opportunity to check work and provide feedback before it goes live.

Practice should also be timely. That is, it should occur shortly after the staff member has received instruction in the task or skill area (and optionally, a demonstration). If something is explained today and no opportunity for practice occurs until three weeks later, how much knowledge will have been retained?

In Brilliant Leader, I also make the point that practice should be graduated. That is, the practice should be made more complex in graduated stages until the staff member has developed completely in the task or skill area. The staff member also needs to know that support is available throughout the practice period although as we shall look at in the feedback part of this series, the coach will not always provide the answers.

Before we get to that aspect of coaching, we’ll be taking a brief look at the next stage of the coaching cycle – how to monitor and observe the staff member while they are practising. This will be our focus in part four of the series.

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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