Understanding the Coachee

It’s not difficult to make the case for coaching your team. Successful coaching increases motivation and helps team members to do their jobs more efficiently. This frees the manager from having to supervise closely, correct repeated mistakes, or keep explaining to staff what has to be done and why, allowing more time to focus on strategic issues. A key factor in successful coaching is how well the approach is personalised to the coachee. Before going into a coaching situation you should be clear about two things: the individual’s skill and their will.

Identifying Skill and Will

A person’s skills relate to the experience of doing a specific type of job, as well as the technical competencies and soft skills needed to perform effectively. For instance, a manager’s skills in the finance department would include the ability to use accounting software. For a salesman, it would cover knowledge of the price parameters and of all the key product and service features.

Another way of looking at people’s skills is to see how well they understand the bigger picture. For example, staff might be new to a job but they still have the ability to get ahead, perhaps because of their background or because they know where to seek advice. You often see this situation when an experienced salesman changes jobs. The individual may not know all the product details or internal reporting procedures but will be well-versed in building rapport with customers in discovering their needs. Therefore, their skill level can be considered high.

The other determining factor – the person’s will – depends on his or her motivation and desire to succeed. Motivated people want to do the best they can for themselves. This feeling comes from inside. It is not something you can impose, but it is possible to create an environment that helps to inspire. This is the major challenge for a coach.

Some people are motived by a sense of responsibility, the work itself, or the recognition received for a job well done. Others may focus primarily on the salary or the promise of a large year-end bonus.

Before starting regular coaching sessions, it is important to know what motivates the other person and what he or she wants to achieve. Understanding a person’s will makes it easier to see where he or she fits on the “skill/will matrix”. You can then decide on your approach and on which one of the four basic styles – directing, guiding, exciting, and delegating – should be adopted.

Next week, we’ll cover these four basic styles in a bit greater detail.