Having looked previously in this series at the application of the coaching cycle and how a manager/leader can find time to coach, this final instalment is aimed at the relationship between coaching and other learning solutions, in particular, training courses.
There are a variety of learning solutions or tools available for helping staff to learn. The most common is to send staff on a relevant training course but there is also the option of using tools such as eLearning, procedural documentation, technical documentation, team briefings, formal education programs, educational books and online articles, forums and blogs. Critically, all of these tools are predominantly knowledge based and they do not, in the main, develop skills, behaviours or attitudes – all of which are required for a staff member to become fully capable in the relevant area.
For example, is it possible to send a staff member on a relevant training course and as a result, for them to become completely competent in that area without any additional intervention?
The answer is – possibly. But only if they are able to practice what they have learned and develop in that specific task or skill area through self evaluation. From a leadership perspective, it will be completely hit and miss as to whether the individual is able to apply what they have learned and become fully competent.
The chances of a staff member becoming fully competent are significantly enhanced if the leader is able to make regular coaching interventions alongside the alternative learning tool. By all means use training, eLearning or any of the other learning and development tools to kick start or support the learning process but they should always be used in conjunction with one-to-one coaching – not instead of it.
One of the common traps managers fall into is to identify a training need (often as a result of the appraisal process) and to arrange for the staff member to attend a relevant training course and then to simply tick the box – job done! Whereas a smart leader will possibly utilise a training course to kick start the process but they will then work with the staff member upon their return to work to develop opportunities for practice, supported by regular feedback interventions.
In short, training courses, eLearning modules, procedural or technical documentation predominantly fulfil the first stage of the coaching cycle – instruction. They simple do not and cannot replace the following four stages of the coaching cycle – demonstration, practice, observation and feedback. These stages can only be achieved by actively coaching staff on the job.
I hope this series on coaching staff has been useful. Becoming an effective coach is a pre-requisite of becoming an effective manager of people – a workplace leader. If you or your company would like any guidance in developing a coaching culture and improving the leadership capability in this area, please contact me via the ELC website to discuss how we can help you move forward.
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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