The Three C's of Coaching for Managers
by Erin Green

As employers ask managers to step up and coach their employees, they need to have a clear idea of the sometimes conflicting goals of coaching.

"There are two clients in every coaching engagement - the individual who's being developed and the organization that has goals," said Paul Gorrell, principal at Partners in Human Resources International, a member of OI Partners, and co-author of The Coaching Connection. "The challenge is through [this] singular process satisfying two distinct clients."

In the book, Gorrell develops the idea of contextual coaching, which tries to bring the organization into the coaching situation and make sure the focus is not entirely on the individual.

He said there are three C's to the contextual coaching method that managers can follow to develop employees.

Employees may not be used to receiving coaching because it's rare for a manager to provide it at a high level. "Because there hasn't been a coaching culture in the management-employee relationship in most companies, first the manager has to convince the individual to buy in to the process, to want to really participate in a development process that is beyond simply the performance coaching they may be used to," he said.

Managers also may not be used to providing coaching, so they should take the time to learn the basics before meeting with employees. "They have to understand how to create rapport around the focus of the work; they have to have incredible empathy skills and the ability to be directive at times and to get the individual to really create plans around their growth," Gorrell said.

This is the whole basis for this sort of coaching model. "[Managers] have to work with that individual in terms of the larger organizational context and the more global context beyond that of best practices in their field," he said.

While Gorrell encourages coaching on the fly, he said effective coaching over the long term requires upfront work and a plan developed with insight into how an employee can grow within the organization.

Overall, Gorrell suggested managers go into the coaching process with an organization development mindset. "What they need to do," he said, "is look at some core elements of the organization that have either impact on the individual or are core concerns of that individual."

These elements may include, for example, the company's strategy or culture or the teams an individual is a part of.

While coaching may take time out of the day for both the manager and the individual, it is an investment that pays off in the long run.

"The investment is around getting an employee engaged in both the stuff they have to do right now to be successful and the things that are about their long-term career growth, and to really see that tied with the company - that's a retention tool," Gorrell said.

"Engagement [is now] often about productivity. Coaching is a great way to invest in getting people to be more productive and really energizing a team."

[About the Author: Erin Green is a senior editor for Talent Management magazine.]