BY:Tiffhany Dudley, Marcia L Hatchett, and Doree Watkins
Coaches use similar canons and tools to help their clients excel. They implement these tools in different ways, but the common denominator present in most coaching relationships can have lasting effects on employees' performance, as well as on the coach. A good coach can identify a client’s problem and provide reasonable steps to a solution. In order for the client to willingly accept the steps given by the coach, a level of trust needs to be established. After conducting various Case Clinics and Listening Assessments, it has been concluded that trust can be established by using the most important elements of coaching: supportive leadership, effective communication, open-mindedness, and the ability to be empathetic.
In performing the group case studies, the coaches did well by taking on supportive leadership roles. As defined in, The Art of Leadership, by J. Donald Walters, “Genuine leadership is of only one type: supportive. It leads people, it doesn’t drive them, it involves them, it doesn’t coerce them. It never loses sight of the most important principle governing any project involving human beings: namely, the people are more important than things” (p.11).
A supportive leader needs to be somewhat situational, in the sense that each problem calls for a different solution. Although things have worked in similar situations in the past, it may not seem to fit every situation. To arrive at the best outcome, it is important to ensure all parties affected learn and grow through the process. A supportive leader does not focus on giving orders and managing every detail, their main focus is giving employees the tools they need to work themselves. While delegation is a vital part of supportive leadership, tasks should not be given in hopes that the client will receive immediate results. Instead, a good coach will work through the tasks with employees to improve skills, talent, and independence. By creating a supportive relationship, the coaches were able to communicate well with the clients, build trust, and help them feel empowered about their performance at work.
A client’s performance can greatly improve if the client and coach practice Effective Communication. In conducting the clinics, communication helped the coaches identify the problem(s) with the clients. Asking a lot of questions helped the coaches to understand the problems the client had that he/she may or may not have addressed. Questioning also helped the coaches get a full understanding of their client’s feelings, as well as their desired outcome. In Shawn Kent Hayashi’s book, Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say it Right When it Matters Most, he discussed the possible results when communication does not exist. He states:
“We may have agreement on a goal or concept, but we may not be on the same page about how it will be done. There is no clarity about the process, steps, timetable, or sequence of events. We do not know how to do what we want done. Frustration bubbles up because it is not clear how to implement the action needed to move forward” (p.101)
The coaches communicated successfully with the clients; building a sincere level of trust, so all parties could be on the same plan for change. Effective Communication is the best foundation for a great working relationship. A great coach not only knows this, they capitalize on it.
In helping clients create a plan for change, coaches must keep an open-mind. They should utilize different perspectives and remain unbiased. Open-mindedness is the only way to truly be successful in coaching; it is actually considered a key component that is essential to helping groups, individuals, and coaches move forward in the right direction. A coach that can facilitate an open-minded based atmosphere will help clients be honest about personal feelings and ideas. This type of atmosphere will also build trust between the coach and client.
In providing an open-minded atmosphere, coaches have to have a sense of flexibility, as change occurs. Coaches have come to agree, out of great adversity comes great change that is not only unexpected, but in a sense considered to be profound change. The ability to be completely objective and eliminate all preconceived notions from staggering new ideas and concepts is rare and a talent within itself. The creative freedom to think outside the box and be innovative is necessary to be an effective coach. In Conversations for Change (p.78), an example is given where Walt Disney said he set out to create one of the best family parks of all time. To ensure his idea and concept continued to grow and flourish well after his death, he mandated that every year a new division or attraction would be added to the parks. As often as Walt Disney’s team creates new attractions, coaches have to have to be ready, and open to change.
As change comes adversity follows and it is essential for a coach to empathize with each client’s circumstance. Being an empathetic coach is being able to relate to the feelings of others, regarding a specific person or situation. It also means having a clear understanding of how these feelings have the ability to impact one’s perception of that person or situation all together. Although being empathetic means understanding the client’s feelings, the coach does not have to necessarily agree with the client’s feelings. A great coach is simply able to appreciate what that client is going through. An empathetic coach puts aside personal perception of what a client may need or want and instead provides that client with the support needed to become successful. In doing this, the coach is strengthening the relationship by building trust. Trust helps everyone involved improve collaboration skills and in return improve productivity.
The goal of an empathetic coach is to give everyone around them the feeling of being recognized, which is why they are very careful to spend more time listening, than talking. During the case clinic the coaches practiced listening and paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that are common during every day interactions. The coaches also discussed with the clients personal insecurities and issues they all had in common. The coaches even gave scenarios of similar situations that helped the clients feel comfortable. These are some of the things that helped the coaches to become empathetic and get a better understanding of the people they are trying to help.
In addition, while being and empathetic coach helps, it is also difficult because some people tend to mistake showing any form of emotion as a sign of weakness. Because many businesses or organizations focus mainly on achieving their set goals, it can oftentimes come at a cost to the employees. As a leader or coach, this leaves no room for emotion – therefore forcing most people to take on the stance “Business is business, nothing is personal.” In these types of unfortunate cases, many empathetic people are forced to either hide or change up their techniques, in an effort to avoid losing the job or appointed position.
Lastly, it is important that as future coaches, we must realize how prominent this role continues to become. We must not only uphold the traditional way of doing things, we have to reinvent, and continue to create new ways of thinking and navigating the world of communications to be in alignment with our changing times. Changing times call for support and great coaches know how vital support is to clients. A coach that is able to openly and effectively convey a particular lesson or message, allows the client to learn, grow, and develop. Coaches need to have an open-mind when finding ways to achieve goals. Throughout the entire process a great coach will be able to empathize with each client’s situation. Once clients feel coaches are being supportive, communicating effectively, keeping an open-mind, and practicing being empathetic the lines of trust will open. Building trust will create a fruitful relationship between the coach and client.
Hayashi, S.K., (2011) Conversations for Change, 12 Ways to Say it Right When it Matters Most. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Walters, J. Donald. "The Art of Leadership." The Art of Supportive Leadership: A Practical Handbook for People in Positions of Responsibility. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2000. 11. Print.