By Jo Taylor – Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent
At Let’s Talk Talent, we are huge fans of using coaching as a tool to unlock people’s potential. We have launched our very own on-demand coaching service, which allows us to focus a great amount of time on meeting talented staff and future leaders on a one-to-one basis and help them grow. In 2020 alone, we have led over 150 hours of coaching. This work has helped us gather valuable insight into which situations can truly benefit, what makes a successful session and how to prepare effectively. We thought we would share our main findings below. Findings born out of lots and lots of interviews commissioned by dozens of great clients, all of whom committed to connecting their people with their own specific purposes.
- Bringing in an external perspective pays off
Many organisations see coaching as a one-to-one session between manager and employee. And whilst some managers are skilled coaches, the same cannot be said of all of them. Managers are often there to direct and act decisively, whilst coaches are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum and aim to empower employees to take on additional challenges. A bit like learning to drive with a dedicated driving instructor sitting next to you, as opposed to your parents. Coaching requires a specific set of skills. This includes active listening, a dedicated focus on a particular need and an analytical and creative mind capable of seeing, both the issue at hand, and the best the way to get someone to overcome it. Because it’s not about fixing the problem; it’s about making sure your people can unlock the solution themselves.
In addition to having opposite skillsets to that required of a coach, business leaders often have to wear many hats, from advising to directing and just overall extinguishing the next fire. So, can we really expect managers to add coaching to their never-ending to-do list? For coaching to be as effective as possible, a little outside (and unbiased) help can really make a difference. Impartial experts can be focussed solely on getting to the heart of individual issues. And when a coaching programme is rolled out on a wider scale across the organisation, those issues can be compiled, analysed and played back to the business, generating meaningful opportunities for change.
However, bringing in outside support doesn’t give management a free pass. Whilst trained coaches can help employees map out the road ahead, those wishing to progress with their professional development will still require support at a higher level in order to fully unlock their potential.
- It’s all about career planning
It may surprise you to hear that over 90% of our sessions this year were centered around one question: How do I develop my career? If you thought employees were patiently waiting for an empty seat to free itself or for their managers to outline the best way for them to gain more experience, think again! Most people want to be proactive when it comes to taking charge of their own careers and coaching is one of the best approaches to help formalise goals and gain a deeper level of self-awareness.
In a world where companies move at such a record speed, often changing completely from one year to the next, making sure you help develop the right skills for your future organisational needs is more crucial than ever.
- Breaking it down
Many businesses understand the benefits of coaching and include it in their learning and development arsenal, often reserved for senior management. But when offered as a broad sweep benefit, without a particular scenario in mind and with only vague objectives, it can be difficult to generate meaningful results. So, when is a good time to offer coaching to your talent pool? I believe the way to create quality conversations and real tangible improvements is to focus on the challenges of today, not the ones you anticipate will pop up in the future. Participants should take on coaching with a specific situation to focus on, and both the coach and coachee should establish measurable goals for each meeting in order to benchmark progress and celebrate improvements along the way. As a tool, coaching can be used for any length of time, without the need for long-term commitment, making it easy to switch to a different approach once the initial goal has been reached.
In addition to specific professional development opportunities, coaching can also be used to guide people through change.
- No longer a luxury
The world of work is changing at a pace that keeps on accelerating, and organisations are struggling to keep up. Some may not be thinking about career development right now. But individuals are, more than ever. At a time where everything is in motion, most of us are reflecting on what is important to us, and progression is coming up pretty high on the list. So, whilst businesses may first be tempted to lock everything down and stop all learning and development budgets during uncertain times, those that continue to offer opportunities for growth will benefit in the long run. Coaching is a great, cost-effective way to demonstrate commitment to helping staff move up, gain deeper and broader experience and achieve their goals. But it’s not all one-sided. A focus on your people will lead to higher retention and lower attrition rates, as well as create a solid pipeline of talented candidates for the future of the business.
Organisations wishing to build a strong pool of talented candidates to solidify the future of their business are no longer saving coaching as a luxury package for their senior leadership teams. Those who get the best results see it as a low-cost tool that generates visible results and progress towards predefined goals that benefit both the organisation and their employees’ career progression. And with key outputs being played back to the business, valuable learnings can also allow for change to be rolled out at scale, not just on a one-to-one basis.
Over the course of running more than 200 coach on demand sessions this year we’ve found the overwhelming majority of sessions have been focussed around career planning. We created this Free Career Planning Whitepaper & Workbook that supports people in your organisation to have better career conversations.
If you are interested in supporting your teams with coaching, please contact Jo Taylor directly.