In the first part of this series on how to coach staff and how to find the time to coach staff, I looked at the instructional stage of the coaching cycle. The need for the coach to provide a clear explanation of the task or skill area by breaking it down into bite sized chunks, delivering a clear and unambiguous message while checking the staff member’s understanding.
An optional tool for imparting knowledge is the use of a demonstration. This primarily enhances the staff member’s knowledge and awareness of the task or skill area by enabling them to see how it is done by an expert or competent individual. However, like each stage of the coaching cycle, providing an effective demonstration is not without its difficulties.
For example, has anyone ever shown you how to do something on a computer? Explanation – Talk – Click! Explanation – Talk – Click! Explanation – Talk – Click! I’m sure most of us have been there and the net result is that we are rarely further forward than when the demonstration began and more often than not, we are more confused.
So how does a coach provide an effective demonstration?
Competent Individual or Expert?
The first challenge is to ensure the person providing the demonstration is able to exhibit model behaviour. The problem often encountered by experts is that they have progressed to a level of unconscious competence – they don’t even have to think about what they are doing. Often, the most effective demonstration will be provided by a competent individual – someone who can think about what they are doing at each stage. This is not to say an expert cannot fulfil the role but they must be able to increase their level of conscious awareness.
An effective demonstration will break the task or skill down into stages and deliver these in a step-by-step format, taking questions at each stage before moving on. This process should conclude with a joined up demonstration that brings all of the stages together.
While providing a demonstration the coach should provide a running commentary that also allows for the staff member to ask questions as the demonstration unfolds.
While this is technically the third stage of the coaching cycle, an effective demonstration should allow an opportunity for the staff member to have a go at the task or skill in the presence of the coach. This will often include a summary of the issues arising from the demonstration before allowing the staff member to move onto the next stage of the coaching cycle – extended practice.
In the next part of this series I will explore further the challenges that are faced by both the coach and staff member in providing opportunities for extended, unsupervised practice in the task or skill area.
Simon Cooper is Chief Executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of the exciting new book, Brilliant Leader and architect of the unique and powerful Brilliant Leadership workshops.
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