Sunday, August 5, 2018

Internal Team Coaching as an Alternative and a Necessity

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on......................."

Project Oxygen was an internal Goggle project which sought to identify, then replicate, the qualities of its most effective managers.

The quality that topped the list was coaching, and the study went on to identify qualities of effective coaches, including listening skills, empathy, and providing timely, specific, effective feedback in a way individualized to each employee.

Coaching is a valuable tool to help members of an organizational team develop enhanced skills and perform at a higher level. It can give recipients new tools, added confidence and greater insight to the overall operations of the organization.  Coaching can be valuable at all management levels and for staffers of all different years on the job.

Coaches aren't born to the task.  An experienced worker, with some empathy and commitment can learn the skill of coaching. In the arts we most often think of a  coach as someone external to the organization; someone who comes in without bias, unencumbered by the baggage of the organization itself, with fresh perspective, but also with meaningful experience in the field and specifically as a coach.  But it doesn't have to be an outsider.  It can work just as well coming from the inside.  And that was the point of the Goggle project:  to help managers across the organization be better coaches.  It is a mistake to think of a coach as exclusively someone not part of the organization.  The whole idea of coaching ought to be embedded in the culture of the organization, and coaching ought to be continuously going on at all levels.

Hiring an outside coach can be an expensive proposition; almost prohibitively so for smaller budget organizations.  There is grant money available in some venues, but not nearly enough to meet the demand.  Some very large organizations can afford the price. But even in the larger cultural institutions, the cost can result in only higher level managers benefiting from the experience, when it is the newer and less seasoned staff members who are most in need of the service, and who stand to most benefit from the process.  And it is a process, for superior coaching and best impacts result from the availability of ongoing coaching over time.

For these reasons, the arts need to develop and hone the coaching skills of longer tenured managers from within.  In small organizations, that's not always easy.

So, we need to consider the concept of internal team coaching, whereby several longer term staffers work together to provide coaching to less experienced members of the organization.  That would allow the coaching staff to bring multiple skills and background experiences to the task, and avoid the sometimes less optimal outcomes of the limitations of a single one to one relationship, without sacrificing any of the personal involvement.  Team coaching isn't the norm, but it can work for our field.  Even in small organizations, the concept can be viable by including board members and volunteers.

And by bringing the function in-house, the relationships with each recipient of coaching can be personalized to the organization and to the individual.  And a team approach allows for continuity in that if demands or deadlines require one of the team coaches to turn attention elsewhere, the coaching remains uninterrupted.  Coaching is a sports metaphor, and virtually nowhere in sports is there a single coach shouldering the entire coaching responsibility.

i know it seems like adding more work to an already impossibly crowded schedule is counter productive , but the end result of informed, better equipped, more motivated and confident junior staffers able to handle the workload better, more efficiently and more productively is worth it.  It makes for a better functioning team, no matter how large or how small, helps in employee recruitment and retainment, and insures the better longer term health of the organization.  Failure to have some kind of plan to help in the professional development of junior staffers is beyond short sighted.  In the long run its borderline suicidal - for the organization and for the field itself.

In-house coaching does sacrifice some of the detachment of an outsider, but an in-house team approach saves time in the process because the coaching team knows the recipient better than would an outsider - including strengths and weaknesses; and knows the organization better too.  Every approach has pros and cons.

I've been a coach, and, it seems to me,  the most important parts of the process are:

1.  Building trust in the process by reassuring the recipient that the process has as its sole objective to help build skills and the workplace relationship. It is NOT a judgmental exercise.  It is about the relationship.

2.  Identifying what the recipient wants from the process; where they think they might benefit from coaching and why.  Drilling down to specifics, many of which are simply about acquiring knowledge and not about approach, attitude or anything else.

3.  Analyzing the circumstances of the person's work performance to date to help expand their thinking in terms of what the coaching process might focus on and offer them.  Deciding on an agenda and objectives list.

4.  Identifying the person's strengths and their weaknesses, and addressing the latter in a non-threatening way - over time.

The meat of the coaching process is to work through getting the recipient to where they want to go, and to where they need to go.  Part of that process is aligning the two.

Of course there is much more to it than just those simple things. And yes it will take some time and effort for staffers unfamiliar with the coaching protocols and best practices to equip themselves to be of value as a coach, but what doesn't take a little time?  A lot can be learned from the internet.  A lot is intuitive. And if there are multiple coaches as part of a team, they can help school each other to the benefit of the recipient.

And remember, coaching is of benefit to the one doing the coaching as well as to the one being coached.  The coach learns more about those s/he works with, about themselves, and about their organization and the field.  So there is an added bonus to doing it in-house and as a team.

Like the old adage of teaching a man to fish being superior than just giving him one fish, funders might get a bigger bang for their buck if they would support efforts to teach our people to be good coaches rather than supporting hiring a coach.  If we did that for a decade we might yield a whole generation of coaches in our midst.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit