The Advancing Leadership Blog

A Word on Coaching

By TEC speaker Steve Gregory

Developing human capital, by creating competent leaders from within, is a focus of most CEOs and their executive teams. Nurturing and developing internal human capital creates opportunity and shareholder value. The coaching delivered by CEOs and the executive team – which is an important manifestation of their leadership – creates a foundation for high performance cultures.

Coaching and mentoring is a broad set of behaviours that contribute to an individual’s growth. Mentoring generally follows training where a professional new to the position is assigned to an experienced executive. Coaching, along with other duties and responsibilities, is a critical component in the mentoring process.  Mentoring typically has an end point where management assumes ongoing coaching with the professional.

For coaching to be effective in both mentoring and management, coaching requires a partnership. A trusting professional, confident and open to learning, in the hands of an expert coach benefits from insight, feedback and guidance. At their best, coaches build confidence on top of competence. Where confidence is lacking, a coach will step in to model, encourage and inspire. Where unwanted, coaches flounder. In these rare circumstances, coaches come face to face with the truth that learning is the responsibility of the learner. The offer of coaching can, after all, be refused.

Mostly, effective coaches observe and assess performance, and through conversation, coaches help their coachee slow down and think through actions and the impact of their actions. Where performance merits reinforcement, coaches may encourage and supply positive feedback. Where the performance requires development or change, coaches work to hammer out new actions required, taking time to explore and reinforce the positive impact of the new, expected behaviours.

Coaching interactions often happen along a continuum. At one end coaching interactions can be brief and spontaneous, and at the other end interactions are structured and recorded. One of the most effective structured coaching interactions that we have found occurs in the “field” where the performance takes place.

By observing others in their role, coaches can develop insight and offer relevant feedback. In this process, coachees grow, ever engaged and led in the process of self-improvement and refinement. The personal growth experienced by their professionals is a powerful source of intrinsic motivation. As professionals discover their growing capacity they take on new challenges, opportunity and risk.

Coaches have to observe others in action first hand and when a great coach sees opportunity for reinforcement or correction he or she avoids the trap of “telling” which is often perceived by the professional as micro-managing. Great coaches hold back their own feedback and focus on engaging the professional so that they develop their own insight.

I like to use my own Mentor Dr. Cecil Welch’s definition of coaching that highlights the profound effect of really good coaching. He says that coaching is:  “An ongoing partnership that helps employees produce fulfilling results in their professional lives. Through the process of coaching, professionals deepen their learning, gain confidence, improve their performance and enhance the quality of their work life.”

About Steve Gregory
Steve Gregory is the President of IsaiX Technologies Inc., a firm specializing in organizational development and technology primarily in the financial services and pharmaceutical sectors in Canada and the United States. Steve was awarded TEC “Speaker of the Year” in 2009.  In 2008, Steve became the President of Canada Company, Quebec Chapter and joined their Board of Directors. Canada Company is a charitable, non-partisan organization that builds bridges between business leaders and the Canadian Military (www.canadacompany.ca).  Steve just returned from Italy as part of a special contingent recognizing the important role of our veterans.

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