Business coaching is the 360-degree process of assessing and providing feedback as it pertains to technical and functional performance. While this is a practice that’s beneficial for all members of an organization, it’s particularly critical for women within your company. Consider the theme for International Women’s Day 2017 from the United Nations which focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, coaching at every step in their lives prepares and enables women.
This is accomplished by providing and receiving feedback to and from all employees across the entire organizational chart—essentially up (management), down (reports) and laterally (peers). When done constructively, this practice has the potential to transform individuals across all lines of the business to create a strong coaching culture and strengthened by providing an opportunity for growth within a role as well as upward mobility within an organization.
I am thankful to say that I have experienced this type of performance coaching throughout my entire professional career. While it may take time for the process to become ingrained in each and every associate, the benefits of coaching at work are well worth the effort. Here are some tips that will help ensure your company gets the most out of implementing a robust and inclusive business coaching culture:
Understand and Communicate the "Why”
The first step to creating and rolling out any process or program is to understand the "why." Why are we doing this? Why does it matter? Why would an employee want to participate? Creating a coaching culture has many benefits, communicating those benefits to the individual will help fuel momentum by providing a purpose. We do not institute coaching to point out flaws or micromanage; rather, we establish a coaching model to bring out the absolute best in ourselves and each other which increases productivity and performance. Assemble a task force to dig deep and uncover how this coaching model will directly impact your company. Provide examples, both tangible and intangible.
Create a Safe Coaching Environment
Of course, your environment is physically safe — what I am referring to is creating a coaching environment free of retribution. It can be intimidating for employees to coach up to managers and leaders. Through coaching sessions, however, employees learn how to advocate for themselves. Women, especially those in male-dominated industries such as STEM, will find this feedback invaluable. Upward coaching is paramount to your leadership learning and development. Consequently, it's crucial to establish clear guidelines and make sure they are enforced to prevent any retaliation.
A great way to create an environment that feels safe and free from retribution is to first gain buy-in from management teams. Reinforcement from leadership on the value of the feedback they receive can play a huge role in allowing employees to feel comfortable "coaching up." Additionally, demonstrating how this kind of feedback has solicited change (for the better) within the organization through a collaborative approach can be a great case study to further these kinds of coaching practices. Eventually, coaching will feel like a common practice.
An excellent way to create an environment that feels safe and free from retribution is first to gain buy-in from management teams. Reinforcement from leadership on the value of the feedback they receive can play a huge role in allowing employees to feel comfortable "coaching up." Additionally, demonstrating how this kind of feedback has solicited change (for the better) within the organization through a collaborative approach can be a great case study to further these types of coaching practices. Eventually, coaching will feel like a standard practice.
Provide Education on How to Properly Coach And Provide Feedback
Education on how to properly coach is a crucial component to creating an effective coaching culture. Not every employee is going to know the proper way to provide feedback. Additionally, men and women respond differently to feedback. Ignoring that fact will undoubtedly open a proverbial can of worms. While it seems like a fairly basic skill, there are certain psychological aspects to consider, including an understanding of both helpful and detrimental verbiage.
It is necessary that your coaching experts partners with learning and development teams collaboratively to develop a strategy that teaches all associates proper coaching methods, specifically tailored to your business and company culture. Your plan should include educating employees on the importance of coming to the table with a solution, adding value to the coaching session by showing a vested interest in improvement and eliminates finger pointing. As a result, you will foster greater inclusivity within your business.
It is important for the coachee to know that their efforts are not in vain and that they are positively contributing to the process. You can highlight their contribution in the form of something as official as following up during a future one-on-one and provide valuable recognition or feedback for improvements where needed. Or it can be as simple as sending a follow-up email, reiterating the feedback provided and thanking the individual for taking a vested interest in their future success, as well as the success of the company. Employee recognition helps encourage associates to keep providing feedback.
Administer Anonymous Surveys
Anonymous surveys are essential to ensure the sustainability of a coaching culture that spans across all employees and levels. Frequently taking the pulse of the process is the best way to determine what is working and what needs to change. Doing so anonymously reduces limitations and increases accuracy because it allows all employees to provide feedback without concern of repercussions freely. These results need to be raw and factual without any form of influence. Also, the survey data should be analyzed, and feedback should be provided to all associates promptly to ensure future participation. Survey feedback includes outlining a plan to remedy areas in need of improvement.
Complete adoption and participation are not going to happen overnight. After all, it requires change and trust building, which takes time. With that being said, the results are well worth the time and effort needed to improve or institute a companywide business coaching program effectively. Increased productivity and performance, building strong leaders, retention and a strong growth-based culture are just a few of the benefits. Embrace a cross-company coaching philosophy because each and every employee deserves the opportunity to feel empowered to lead.