It will depend on the precise nature of the coaching and skill the coach has as an instructor. Whatever the context for the relationship however, the following structure will help ensure the coaching process is carried out as effectively as possible.
When a coaching situation goes wrong it takes a lot of time and energy to regain the trust.
Frequently the reason this happens is because both parties have different objectives from the situation. These goals need not be identical but they must be agreed and complimentary.
For instance, as a coach Arsene Wenger’s objective is for his team to win. Thierry Henry may have a personal target to score 30 goals a season. Both objectives are complimentary – unless it gets to the stage where Henry tries to score at the expense of the rest of the team. Here we have different agendas and the coaching relationship is almost certain to fail unless the objectives are realigned.
When a coaching contract is set up it pays dividends to go through a strict process. This process will seem laboured and painstakingly slow at the beginning but when you get into the habit, it will save you so much anxiety that you will wonder how you survived before.
Time and effort can be lost in the coaching process because the parties haven’t had a meaningful discussion. Each person needs to establish exactly what outcome they want from the situation, by when, by whom and where the responsibilities lie.
Coaches need to learn to handle this part of the conversation extremely effectively. This can be difficult. How often have you been introduced to someone and not caught their name? Do you ask them to repeat it? How often? A skilled communicator will ask for as long as it takes – you know the problems if you don’t do this – you spend the rest of the evening avoiding the person or feeling embarrassed when you talk to them.
You must be willing to stay with the conversation even though you feel uncomfortable. You may be tempted to back off and say ‘I understand’ before you do but you need to hang in there until it’s crystal clear. The conversation should allow you to establish what the employee truly needs, not just wants. The employee may want to be better at everything – don’t we all? Your role as a coach is to get them to set achievable goals.
"Skilled coaches don’t stop and walk away until they are absolutely 100 per cent sure they know what’s expected of them"
It’s a subtle conversation, which forces the employee to be precise and focused. To tease this out, start with lots of open questions, such as ‘how do you feel your career is progressing?’ and ‘are there any particular problems you need to overcome?’.
These questions then move from general aspects to specifics and will help engage the other in taking responsibility. A side-effect of this process is it helps build and strengthen the relationship.
Obviously it won’t be as simple as asking these questions. This is just the start. Invariably what the employee needs doesn’t match with what they think they want initially.
The coach needs to keep questioning and listening until what the employee wants and needs completely overlap. At the end of the conversation the coach needs to be as specific as possible about the problem and ensure the player is clear about what they truly want and need. Now there is something tangible to work with.
The next part of the discussion is about your willingness and ability to meet the request. You need to consider whether you have the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes to make it work. If you haven’t, then say so and try to work out a way to still help – look at different approaches, but again stay with the conversation. Skilled coaches don’t stop and walk away until they are absolutely 100 per cent sure they know what’s expected of them.
They have learnt from experience that unless this happens the coaching won’t work effectively, that the ‘problem-solving fairy’ won’t miraculously appear and sort things out. The problems just stay and grow. This all seems clear and sensible I know, but coaching can be difficult. The good thing is that it does get easier. The more you do it – the smoother it gets.