I find it ironic that the recent popularisation of coaching is having the detrimental side effect of reducing its use, particularly in recruitment. I’ve watched as coaching has become the buzz word for staff development, training is now often referred to as coaching, so real coaching is being squeezed out.
Coaching is extremely different to training. If you really want to realise your own, or your employees’ potential, effective coaching is vital.
I recently posed the question on my LinkedIn profile “what is the difference between coaching and training?” The answers varied massively and created a lot of debate. The number of poor definitions of what coaching is also confirmed to me why so many people in the recruitment sector simply don’t know what coaching is. So what is the definition of coaching? In the workplace/business context this is how I would explain it:-
Coaching removes the reliance on the trainer or manager through development of the individual being coached by using a collaborative open question based style to encourage the student to apply existing knowledge and problem solve for themselves.
Sorry, I know it’s a bit wordy but it’s the best I could do without writing a whole blog on it!
If I was selling the concept of coaching to managers and business owners, I would draw their attention to developing their staff to think and problem solve for themselves. How much more time would it give you if you don’t need to spend as much time making decisions for your staff or giving them the answers to their problems?
Coaching develops people by helping them to think for themselves, apply their knowledge and experience, develop positive habits, and grow in areas that can be restricted through training.
Coaching means your team produces more, you create a succession of managers for the future AND you save time working with them. Training passes on your knowledge but relies on the student to not only absorb what you’re teaching, but the really important bit, to also apply that knowledge.
If your team remains dependent on your help, and this ongoing need for your problem solving skills continues, you can’t free up your time to work with new staff, or take on new projects. To cut this vicious circle you need to coach your team to think for themselves.
A favourite quote of mine from Andre Agassi illustrates how quality coaching frees up your time.
“A great coach can lead you to a place you don’t need him anymore”
To some, controlling recruiters’ knowledge is power and this leads to the fear that if any of your team know more than you or become ‘better’ than you, you’ll lose that power and the spotlight then moves away from your big ego. Managers can get hooked on the ‘hero’ element that I mention in my blog How Being A ‘Hero Manager’ Will Hold The Growth Of Your Team Or Rec...It feels great when you are the ‘hero’ with the solutions to everyone’s problems and fly in to save the day when challenges come up. Coaching staff should mean they won’t need your problem solving as much, so you’ll be the ‘hero’ less often.
Most recruiters have never received any quality coaching, so they’ve never experienced how powerful coaching can be. A lot of our learning is from exposure and doing as those we respect do, so if you don’t see it, you’re unlikely to do it.
As coaching isn’t practised in many recruitment businesses, it follows that managers don’t get any training or coaching on how to coach. And even when managers are shown how to coach, the time good coaching takes is in such short supply in a busy recruiter’s day so it often falls off the things to do list. A Duke University study found 45 % of our behaviours are habitual, so if a manager, fresh out of learning to coach, doesn’t start to use it habitually, it never happens.
Managers who are fortunate enough to be offered training in how to coach have usually been recognised for their achievements and are well looked after. This can be a double edged sword when it comes to coaching. If the manager has been repeatedly rewarded for their current style of management, it’ll take some discipline on their part to change the style that has worked so far. Quality coaching does take time, and although this time investment pays huge dividends, to find this time will take discipline to those new to coaching. In recruitment we are bred to work fast, time kills deals etc. however remember the famous Chinese proverb that states “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” If you don’t spend time developing your staff, they’ll always keep coming back to you for help.
Try, “how do you feel you should solve this” or simply “what do you think we should do?” And don’t forget to use that great recruitment tool, the “what else?” This helps people really think rather than give the first answer that comes to mind. It’s the helping people to think that’s the key to coaching.
If you ask more than one question, one after another, 9 times out of 10 it’s the last one that gets answered, and the first ones get ignored. Ask the question, listen to the answer and your next question should be based on the first answer, expanding the thought process.
Most of us do this to a greater or lesser degree, however it’s a terrible habit for coaching. You are there to help your student to think, so don’t jump in, let them finish, it’s developing their ideas that matters, they won’t learn if you keep giving them your answers.
Coaching is a skill that pays massive dividends if practised well, but it does take time and patience, a very rare commodity in the recruitment world. But trust me I’ve seen how average or failing recruiters, managers and business owners have unleashed their real potential through quality coaching.