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Team Managers - You Need to People Coach & Team Coach

It is now widely accepted that the skill of coaching is an absolute essential for all team managers and leaders and most organisations will ensure that their team managers and leaders will have some form of coaching training. This is good, although like any training intervention, the quality of the training must be first class, be totally relevant to the role and be followed up via a support programme to ensure that the learned skills are utilised effectively and sustained. In my experience, as regards coaching skills training, I have found that there are some challenges to ensuring that managers start to apply their newly found coaching skills. These are:

· The quality of the coach training in the first place is dubious. Coaching skills training should not be over-theoretical and should be based on the essential theories that work in practice and explained using real life scenarios in order to make them ‘live’ in the eyes of the trainee.

· The training should not simply be a 1,2- or 3-day training course and should be followed up with 1:1 coaching and possibly group action learning set activity. I have been on some quite good 2–3-day coaching courses where the theory has been limited and there has been plenty of time to practice the skills and the theory behind the skills. However, to really ensure embedding of the skills then a follow up programme of 1:1 coaching and action learning with the other delegates is always necessary to ensure sustained skills implementation. Too many training companies do not offer this and when this is offered too many organisations do not take up this option because of the extra cost. But hey, they’ve ‘ticked the box’ and delivered the coaching training course!

· To ensure real buy-in to the coaching training the senior line managers should also be involved in the coaching training programme in some form or other. These senior managers should recognise that their coaching of their own managers is an essential part of the journey, and it is my strong belief that if team managers experience good coaching from their own line manager, then this inevitably helps with them buying into the coaching process and thus will be more open to developing the skills. Sadly, too many senior managers don’t coach at all, and for those that attempt to coach, many will not have the required skills to do this effectively. This does not help their own line managers to quickly develop good coaching skills.

· Many team managers do come off the coaching programme motivated to put their newly found skills into action but are then faced with the daunting prospect of dealing with numerous plans and tasks that the team has to deliver. When this is not handled effectively, time becomes pressurised, with the result that the team manager can quickly resort to old behaviours and return to a more directive approach as it would seem to be ‘quicker to tell them what to do’. This is one reason to ensure a good follow-up coaching programme in order that the team manager can be coached to not only embed their newly found coaching skills but also to manage their time and tasks appropriately but also manage their senior manager!

So, make sure you provide a top-class coaching skills development programme incorporating the core training course backed up by follow up 1:1 coaching and ideally an ‘action learning set’ approach with the group or groups of core programme delegates. Encourage the senior managers to support the programme not simply by ‘words’ but also by coaching the delegate managers effectively.

Now, this is not the end point of coaching skills development. Coaching team members on a 1:1 basis is challenging (albeit very rewarding!) enough but when faced with coaching the team as a whole this can be a real daunting prospect for a young and inexperienced manager. In fact, it can be a daunting prospect for an older and vastly experienced manager! Don’t assume that your top-class coaching skills programme will enable the team manager to deliver effective coaching for both 1:1 and team situations – unless you have delivered a programme that includes a hefty element of coaching teams. To enable this, the programme has to ensure that it follows the process as on the 1:1 course (i.e., core programme, follow up coaching and action learning) but has the content around team development and performance strategies alongside knowledge of team dynamics and how to deal with the most common team dynamics situations, e.g., conflict. The more knowledge you have about teams and team dynamics the better position you will be in to coach the team effectively.

So, don’t just rely on a basic coaching skills development course ensure that your team managers have the huge benefit of a coaching skills development programme that covers both 1:1 and team coaching. Only this way will you ensure that the organisation’s ability to truly release the potential of its employees and teams is realised.

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