Is combining coaching as a blended part of a training or learning initiative a powerful way to create results? The answer should surely be YES, but as I talk with learning professionals, I’m hearing all too frequently stories of where it isn’t producing the outcomes the stakeholders wanted or expected. A partial success isn’t a success, it’s a failure—which is of course a chance to learn!
Let’s explore and consider 5 ways you can enable a coaching and training combination to fly, and what can cause it to fail.
1. Alignment: It is important to ensure that coaching and learning are aligned and that outcomes flow from the learning into coaching initiatives. Far too often, what I’m seeing is that the coaching is standalone in terms of goals and actions. These coaching goals or actions need to be directly linked to the learning—not through content, but through objectives. Some organisations set up a great learning initiative which provides a fantastic experience. But after the workshop, the participants get a coach and the two are not singing off the same hymn sheet. Using effective action planning can be a great way to get alignment—learn more in this blog post.
2. Person: Having the “right” person as the coach is key. The Facilitator or someone that is close to the content of the program is often NOT the best person to have in a coaching role. Why? If the coach isn’t intimately connected with the learning, the ownership goes back to the individual to work out how it applies in their context rather than the conversation being about the content of the learning. It’s easy to talk about theory and content but holding a person’s feet to the fire is what will create behavioural change. The more you talk about the content of the learning, the more theoretical the conversation will be, and the less behavioural change you’ll get. It would be remiss here not to mention the manager as coach role. They can suffer from the same problem as the facilitator in that they are seen as the expert, and often slip into content or advice mode even if they aren’t intending to. Often, too, the level of vulnerability a person needs to access to shift leadership behaviours is hard to achieve with a line manager. Considering the strategic impact required by your learning initiative and the learning maturity of your organisation will help inform the best person to play the role of coach.
Sometimes people don’t really know what good coaching looks like, and it is one of the 6 Reasons Why Most Attempts To Create A Coaching Culture Fail.
3. Metrics: I’m horrified when I hear of clients investing heavily in coaching as a follow-on from learning initiatives with no firm basic metrics collated at any level (program, group, or individual). How many sessions are taking place? How many people asked to reschedule with notice or last minute? How long was the conversation? Evaluating the outcomes and the business impact doesn’t necessarily need to go all the way to ROI but it is essential to know whether people are engaging and the value people getting out of the conversations. What changes are people making as a result of those conversations and what business benefits are these bringing? Simple questions can offer rich information. In addition, ensure that at least 80% of participants are sharing progress or feedback at the end of the coaching—without fail. Call me if you want to know how Lever achieves this, group in, group out.
4. Length of Conversations: Consider if the length of the coaching conversations you are proposing or working with is right. Coaching has changed a lot in recent years—it started off at a level where the privileged few had access to an executive coach and conversations were typically 90 minutes, face-to-face. But with the world-shift to efficiency, coaching needs to follow the same line—when we’re looking at a coaching-based methodology, our conversations are rarely longer than 30 minutes at a time. And whilst that may sound as if the conversation becomes a systematic checkbox process, it is far from it. You can still be deep and efficient in a short time with focus.Be respectful of your participants’ time and ensure you really add value to the time that they give you.
5. Consistency: We need to consider the consistency of coaching methodology used, especially when programs are rolling out across the country or at an international level. Are ALL coaches using a consistent methodology? This doesn’t mean ticking a box or some other simplistic method. It will be tailored to the individual because coaching is obviously a very personalised process, but having a framework and standard to work to, developed specifically to support learning, is important.Ensuring that the team of coaches (whether internal or external) has a supervision process is also important for consistency and quality. Coaching is one of those skills that we need to use frequently to ensure the saw is always sharp. A coach that is actively growing will get the best from a coachee.
Coaching to support training needs planning and consideration. A “Just get a coach” approach is rarely enough!
Yes, anyone can coach—I describe it as a simple, but not an easy skill. Reaching mastery is something else and it certainly cannot be perfected in a few hours of training or practise.
At Lever, we have a coaching-based methodology for learning transfer that is specifically designed to align with learning and create great organisational outcomes. The developmental approach engages learners in a short period of time using a set framework to deliver consistent results.