By Mike Cieri
Coaching involves three main processes: communicating, influencing, and helping. When communicating, the manager listens (receives messages), initiates and responds (gives messages), and gives feedback. When influencing, the manager persuades the subordinate to move in a particular direction by positively reinforcing desirable behavior; encourages the subordinate to exercise more autonomy; and fosters the subordinate’s identification with the manager as someone whose experience, skill, and influence are greater than the subordinate’s own. When helping, the manager expresses concern and empathy for the subordinate, establishes the mutuality of the relationship, and assists the subordinate in identifying his or her developmental needs. During the helping phase of a coaching session, both parties respond to the needs of the other.
We addressed effective communicating in a previous column.
Influencing is an effort to have an impact on the subordinate. It involves increasing the subordinate’s autonomy, practicing positive reinforcement, and fostering the subordinate’s identification with the manager.
- Increasing the Subordinate’s Autonomy.
Influencing is often thought of as decreasing the autonomy of the influenced person and directing him or her into channels that are predetermined by the person exerting influence. However, the positive influencing that takes place during a coaching session has the opposite effect; the person who is influenced is granted a wider scope of decision making. There are two different influencing behaviors that are most effective when coaching. One is called the direct mode, which restricts the freedom of the person being influenced; the other is called the indirect mode, which increases the freedom of the influenced person.
For coaching to have the intended effect, the manager must use the indirect mode by accepting the subordinate’s feelings as well as his or her own, expressing those feelings, acknowledging and praising good ideas contributed by the subordinate, and raising questions that promote thinking and exploration.
The whole function of performance coaching can be seen as helping. However, the specific task of helping during a coaching session involves particular activities:
- Expressing Concern and Empathy
Without demonstrating genuine concern for the subordinate, the manager cannot provide effective helping during a coaching session. The manager must be able to empathize with the subordinate and reflect this empathy in the tone of the conversation and the kinds of questions asked.
- Establishing Mutuality
Coaching entails receiving help as well as giving it. Unless the mutuality of the helping relationship is established during the coaching session so that both parties feel free to ask for and provide help, coaching cannot be effective. Mutuality is based on trust and the genuine perception that each party has something important to contribute. Although the manager is in a superior position, he or she must demonstrate willingness to learn and to receive help from the subordinate.
- Identifying Developmental Needs
The ultimate purpose of performance coaching is the systematic and specific identification of a subordinate’s developmental needs. Once these needs have been identified, plans can be made regarding ways to fulfill them.
Mike Cieri, MSIR, is Vice President of Mardac Consultants and been in the Human Resource Management field for over 20 years. During this time he has held a variety of management positions, including several years on the executive management team of a large corporation as Vice President of Human Resources and Safety, as well as Vice President of Operations.