Creating Lightbulb Moments: Why Workplace Coaching Matters
Before I entered my current line of work, I had a very different idea of what a “coach” is. Like many people, I thought of a coach as an elevated instructor: a subject-matter expert in, say, basketball, who drilled the fundamentals into his or her players. Someone who had all the answers and mastery, then taught others the intricacies of the sport. In the power dynamic, the coach held the position of authority.
Today, I think about coaching in an entirely different light: one that flips the power equation on its head. I want to tell you about workplace coaching — one of the services I provide for my clients — what it is and what it is not, and why it can result in truly transformational growth for leaders and organizations.
Let’s start with what it is not:
Workplace coaching is not mentoring. A mentor passes along knowledge based on their own experience. The mentor sets the agenda and actively gives advice. A coach establishes a partnership: actively listening and using questions to help the client discover their own answer or path. This leads to more sustainable results.
Workplace coaching is not counseling or therapy. Therapy focuses on behavioral change or treatment that helps someone address their thought patterns or emotional distress. While both therapy and coaching involve techniques of listening and questioning, coaching does not deal with personal trauma or crisis; it is focused on future growth and discovery.
Workplace coaching is not training. Training equates to telling: a formal transfer of information from the expert to the participants. It is often conducted in a one-time, structured group setting. Coaching can be with individuals or teams, but it is an ongoing, collaborative process.
Each of these services has its place and its importance. But workplace coaching occupies a crucial niche in organizational health. Coaching empowers leaders and organizations to discover the tools and solutions that can help move them forward. The secret sauce in this recipe is a third-party objective coach who is trained and experienced in making action-oriented inquiries that facilitate change.
According to the Institute on Coaching, 80 percent of coaching recipients reported increased self-confidence and 70 percent experienced improved work performance, relationships, and better communication skills. Coaching can impact leadership style and effectiveness, organizational culture, retention, and results.
That’s a lot of lofty words. But what does workplace coaching look like in action?
In a workplace or leadership coaching environment, you are the expert in your field. I am the guide or the facilitator. My role is to actively listen and ask intentional questions that help you find the solutions. It is a partnership, with you in the driver’s seat.
Recently, I worked with a client who was recently promoted into a management role. She suddenly held a position of power over people who used to be her peers. She felt they didn’t respect her, and it was difficult to hold her new direct reports accountable for results. She felt stuck. Together, we explored the organizational culture and lifted up her strengths: clear communication, consistent expectations, boundaries, attaining buy-in for results. With some small but significant course corrections, she was able to reorient the team to the new landscape and, more importantly, operate with confidence within her new role.
You might be thinking that your challenges are not so significant as to warrant professional coaching. But my clients utilize coaching for both individual goals and organizational change. Coaching is right for individuals or teams who:
- Have a workplace goal
- Are feeling burned out by challenges
- Want to move forward but feel stuck
- Are battling a negative company culture
- Have a big change in strategy, leadership, or structure ahead and want to be proactive in preparing for it
- Feel alone in their role (often this is executives at higher levels of an organization who don’t have objective, outside peers to bounce ideas off of or discuss frustrations)
- Are struggling with communication issues (strategy and goals are not reflected throughout the organization, messaging gets lost in the layers of the company)
Coaching is most effective when it is timely, ongoing, and consistent. I develop professional relationships with my clients that nurture trust and honest dialog. As a result, my clients experience real results. It’s like watching a lightbulb turn on. I love being a part of the transformation that happens when an individual or team is empowered to make changes to their approach that in turn impacts the health of an entire organization. If you want to explore what workplace coaching can achieve for your or your team, let’s talk.