Ask anyone to define the word coach and you will get a wide variety of responses. Some will say coach is a sort of tutor or instructor, but others will say it's a large, multi-wheeled railway carriage. Unfortunately, the second definition is about as helpful as the first in deciding what coaching at work is all about.
To be a 'Coach' and to participate in 'Coaching' are both currently trendy terms but are both widely misunderstood. Coaching is ultimately about raising the levels of human performance and, as such, has connections with teaching, training, counselling and mentoring. However, there are subtle but important differences that we need to understand.
In essence, coaching has two main facets. Firstly it is performance focused which means it is concerned with helping individuals perform tasks to the best of their ability. Secondly, it is person centred which means that it is the individuals being coached who are seen as having the important insights. Fundamentally then, coaching is about drawing out, not putting in.
By using coaching we can tap into the huge reserves of talent and potential which lay dormant in most people. As managers, we can develop people without having to rely on passing on our own skills and knowledge, which may already be out of date. Without an ability to coach we are left to trust the tired old methods of teaching and instruction which are proving increasingly ineffective in the world of constant change to which we are all having to adjust.
When most people think about coaching, they think about a sports coach shouting and yelling at the players and trying to help them succeed without being directly involved. In sport, the role of coach is crucial in helping people perform at their peak, and even the most accomplished sportspeople such as Tiger Woods or Roger Federer still gain huge benefit from a good relationship with their coach.
The role of the coach in organizations is broadly similar. Whether the coaching is delivered by a manger as a general part of their duties or by a specific coach, they will still be trying to achieve results through others. In thinking about coaching in this way we can see that there is great benefit to be had from having someone in the organization who has the skills and abilities to draw the best out of others. If it were possible to have everyone in an organization improve their performance by as little as 1 or 2 per cent then the results would be staggering.
Many organizations are now taking the power of coaching very seriously and appointing people to the specific role of coach. Whilst managers may have the skills and abilities to coach well they are often preoccupied with more task oriented matters and can struggle to find the time to coach effectively.
Increasingly we are able to tap into coaching outside our organizations. There are many small consultancies offering Executive Coaching, where top-level managers in organizations can have regular weekly or monthly sessions with a trained coach to help them work through their current issues. It can often be of great benefit to have a coach who does not work in the organization and who is, therefore, not involved in the same issues. Similarly, some people are now seeking the services of Life Coaches to help them work through personal problems, achieve goals and strike an effective work/life balance.
Whatever the context, we can see that coaching is intended to be a means by which one individual seeks to help another move forward and develop in some way.
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