Father Coaching Son to Ride BicycleThis is part 3 in a series of posts on small business leadership. 

Check out what you missed in part 2 about motivating employees.

Coaching is my work. It is also a skill I have been perfecting for more years than I am willing to admit. Here is what I promise you: as a business leader, coaching will change your life and the lives of those you share it with. The better you get at coaching, the more everyone benefits. The outcome of coaching is more fully actualized individuals who have pushed past their crossroads, through their “roadblocks” and are accessing more of their full potential. They are more who they want to be and they offer more to the world around them.

I got my first practice as a coach in the leadership roles I held previously in corporate America. The better coach I was of others, the more success I experienced personally and as a contributor to the business. You will find that your business and personal success is tied to your ability to coach top performances from others.

I often get the question, “What is coaching anyway?” Many think of a coach as the one who stands on the sideline of a sports event — he one who sends in plays, and then throws their cap when the play does not develop as they intended. Wipe that image from your mind. Anyone can coach. In a coaching relationship an individual (in this case your employee) who has a particular vision or goals decides to reveal their raw talent, strengths and weaknesses, to another individual. They are willing to be vulnerable. Through a relationship built on trust and understanding the coach helps them to set a course to try something new, make corrections, push through old boundaries, and modify old behaviors to get what they want. Not what you want or your company wants, but what they want.

The coach is firm but understanding. They have agreed to join with the individual they are coaching to reach their goals. The coach takes responsibility for motivation, resources, honest feedback, and holding the employee accountable for their stated goals. Once achieved, the coach joins in celebrating the outcome.

You may have to go back and reread the previous two paragraphs. Many may think coaching is all about getting the top performance out of your employees for your own benefit. That may be a primary motivation for some who learn the coaching skill. Yet, the true purpose of coaching is to help the “coachee” get what they want and need. The side effect is the positive impact they have on everything they do including participating as a member of a team. If the focus of coaching is not on what they want, it is viewed as punishment, corrective action, or an attempt by an employer to change their true nature.

So, what is your role as a coach? How do you participate with another individual to get what they want and “what’s in it for you?”

I like to use the analogy of a parent teaching a child to ride a bike. If you have children you, can relate. You were probably the one that coaxed them to take the training wheels off and go it on their own. You promised to hold the seat while they pedaled to give them confidence that they would not fail. Halfway down the driveway you let go and they pedaled off on their own with you shouting encouragement. Having realized they could do it themselves, they jumped on the next time and off their rode. You stay behind watching them ride off alone beaming from ear to ear. Their accomplishment was yours. You believed in them, encouraged them, praised them, and challenged them to do more. The benefit for a coach is the same. You share in the pride of the accomplishment. Sometimes that is just a feeling. Other times it is more concrete result, such as profit or income or landing a huge account.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention what coaching is not. It is not dictatorial, micromanaged, self-serving, critical or unkind.

Are you ready to coach? Follow these four simple steps:

1. Start by having a clear understanding of the goals of your employees, in particular those that overlap with your goals and your company goals.
2. Help them to identify actions that will help them to achieve their goals.
3. Be clear with how much support you can and will offer and get their agreement to be accountable to the goals they set and actions they agree to.
4. If it is a formal relationship, set up a regular meeting to review progress and reset actions. If it is less formal, create private space to talk about what you are observing and allow them to self-correct and set a new course.

You can expect to see progress immediately but, it takes time for real change to happen. Be patient. The outcome can be everyone’s gain.

Read Small Business Leadership, part 2: Motivating Employees