If you want to bring out the best in your team and secure better business results, coaching techniques may help you to do this. In the autumn edition of APPOINT HR and Management magazine I share what I find to be some essential tips…

Coaching is a powerful tool. It can develop creative thinking; build self-awareness; strengthen decision-making and hone influencing and communication skills. The opportunity to take time out and focus on business challenges often proves invaluable. Furthermore, managers and leaders can use its basic techniques informally as part of their everyday work lives to nurture and bring out the best in their team. This can, in turn, build a coaching mentality across the organisation, helping it to deliver superior business results. Here are some points to consider:

1. Gain permission
Coaching is a voluntary process. Gain the person’s permission by checking they want to have coaching and they have the time to do it. Once you have this, you will have their commitment and buy-in.

2. Safe environment
As a coach, you need to create a safe environment. Choose a place where the person feels comfortable and is able to talk openly – this should be a private space and not in an open-plan office in front of colleagues! It’s also important at this point that the coachee is reassured the conversation is totally confidential. Coaches need to build trust for the person to be able to open up and discuss the barriers around the issue.

3. Be present
To further build trust, the coach needs to ‘be present’. Coaching is about being ‘mindful’ not ‘mind-full’. Move away from all screens, switch off phones and focus on the person in front of you. Maintain eye contact, practise active listening and use open body language. All of this is aimed at making the person feel comfortable enough to open up and create rapport.

4. Have a goal
The difference between coaching and a cosy chat is having a goal for the conversation. The simple way to facilitate this is to ask the question: ‘What would you like to achieve from this conversation?’ The coaching process is about the coachee understanding where they are now, where they want to be and exploring the options to get there. The process is only complete when they have action points to take away from the conversation. The real magic happens in between coaching sessions when the coachee has time to assimilate the discussion from the session and put strategies into practice.

5. Explore the issue
Explore the issue with listening and open questions, for example: ‘What’s going on for you right now?’ ‘What have you tried already?’ ‘What else can you do/think of?’ Don’t be afraid of a silence or pause; give the coachee thinking time and space. Remember, a coaching conversation is collaborative and not hierarchical, so resist the temptation to ‘tell’.

6. Gaining commitment
If the coachee identifies and commits to their own action points, they are more likely to take ownership and make them happen. Make sure the actions are well thought through by making them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). Check they are committed to the action points and if there are any doubts or hesitations, explore these at this point.

Coaching doesn’t have to involve lengthy conversations. Active listening, asking open and exploratory questions and eliciting the answers from the person rather than telling can also be used in shorter, spontaneous conversations in everyday work scenarios as well as planned coaching sessions.