Corporate Coaching and Employees: One Step Ahead

"Don't shoot... We're on the same side."

Contrary to popular belief, a corporate coaching session with your employees is not the beginning of the change process. Our studies and consulting indicate that, 90% of the time, employees already have a clue that a problem or challenge is on the horizon. Furthermore, some employees have already resolved to take action and correct an existing problem or prevent or minimize impending problems. This start of pre-existing readiness is called the employee's "own force" (self-motivation) for change. In corporate coaching, the trick for the manager is not to let employees feel too threatened, exposed, or vulnerable when they sit down with you. If employees believe that they won't be tortured or tormented, they will begin to relax and share data and impressions. Employees will naturally feel some initial anxiety and be a bit defensive, even when they are in safe hands. The manager can achieve a lot of success if he/she can tap into, heighten, and acknowledge the employee's "own force" or self-recognition of the situation.

Some leaders believe that the coaching session will help the employee who has perceptual blind spots by establishing the fact that a problem exists. However, the real challenge is to eliminate blind spots regarding the problem's "impact" and "consequences" of future action.

A common omission of leaders, while conducting a coaching discussion, is acknowledging and giving employees credit for their awareness of the problem or concern, voluntary cooperation, and self recognition of the needed change. After gathering research data on the corporate coaching from both leaders and employees, we saw a fascinating pattern emerge. Leaders typically attributed their past coaching success to their own skillful orchestration of the coaching discussion. Employees, on the other hand, frequently attributed coaching success to their self-motivated effort to respond to change. Failure to understand that both the leader and employee play key parts in the corporate coaching process can lead to serious complications.

Employees generally don't transmit graphic or extravagant verbal or nonverbal signs that they are attuned to the leader's line of thought and recognize that change is needed. It is as though the employee doesn't want to "let on" that the manager has a very good point which deserves serious consideration. That manager needs to be very alert and prepared to recognize and acknowledge a subtle yet positive shift of direction or recognition from the employee. The ability to put this into words is critical. For instance, if the employee says, "I guess I would be willing to give that a try," the leader could either assume that the employee is still not fully committed or that this represents some positive movement and respond by saying. I'm glad you are willing to try. It is important to be sure that you want to go ahead with this plan."

The objective of this procedure is to support the employee's internal willingness or motivation to act constructively in the future. If the supervisor can recognize and reinforce the employee's "own force," then the ease and speed of the change will increase.

Employees value expression of appreciation in exchange for their support. If the leader doesn't acknowledge the employee's "own force" and treats the employee as though there were none, the employee may interpret the leader's actions as unnecessarily punitive or a put-down. This may result from the leader overworking the issue or covering old ground from the employee's point of view. The leader simply needs to make sure that the employee's awareness is accurate and that the level of readiness is high enough and then guide the employee into an action plan.

The goal in all of this is to let employees feel like a part of the team, to recognize that employees have accurately detected the same concern or issue as the leader, and then to move the coaching process into the action plan. The bottom line is this: be prepared to give employees some credit. Look for the subtle signs that they are beginning to respond, and express your appreciation for their support and cooperation.

CMOE has been helping Pfizer, LG, FedEx, Boeing and many other multinational organizations develop their leaders around the world over the past 27 years. To learn more about corporate coaching or other programs we have to offer, contact a Regional Manager at (888)262-2499.

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