Think about your typical workday. How often do you come across a problem for which you don’t know the solution? How often do you get stuck? It happens to everyone, and organizations should provide real-time solutions for getting unstuck, such as developing everyday coaches.
“Coaching is all about pulling out the best of what people already have [and] what they already know and acknowledging that they can put together the knowledge and experience they’ve had in new ways for new solutions,” said Jane Creswell, the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coaching for Excellence and also founder and president of Internal Impact. “It’s easy to get stuck, but a five-, 10-minute conversation with [your peer or manager can] help get [you] into action.”
She advocates for a simple five-step approach that anyone can learn and employ. First, you need to connect with the individual who is stuck; then both of you focus on the problem and ask questions. These questions will promote discovery. Next, you can develop one or two action plans and evaluate the outcomes of those actions.
“When you create a work climate in which those steps — connect, focus, discover, act and evaluate — become the norm, it becomes the way we communicate with each other and gets everybody focused on forward momentum,” Creswell said.
This method can work in any organization, she added. It can be used peer to peer or manager to employee.
“It can be as informal or formal as you want, and it doesn’t require a huge investment,” Creswell said.
This type of coaching is a real-time tool that can help solve immediate problems.
“I worked at IBM for almost 20 years. What I noticed was that any tool that we could put in people’s hands that was quick to implement [and] easy to remember would be better than [the tools] that were really expensive or took a lot of time to learn,” Creswell said.
“Eventually, when you get a certain number of people coaching and being coached, it becomes an assumed way of operating, and people start to coach themselves. Because of how our brains work, whatever you figure out to do to solve your current challenge, you will automatically start applying it to future challenges.”
Coaching also can make other learning initiatives and programs more productive for employees.
“At IBM, we noticed that after we started teaching people these basic coaching skills, they started assuming that’s the way things would happen,” Creswell said. “Because coaching was just the norm, [when employees went to classes, they] knew when they came back they would be asked, ‘How are you going to apply what you just learned, and what are the two or three key actions that you’re going to take that will make a difference in this organization?’ It actually multiplied the return on that investment for going to a class.”