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Entrepreneurship development: Coaching your staff

The most valuable resource for most organisations is the people therein and those that support the organisation from outside in various ways. Yet, in our…

The most valuable resource for most organisations is the people therein and those that support the organisation from outside in various ways. Yet, in our environment, there is no gainsaying that, sadly, avoidable staff issues are some of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs and other employers of labour face. Whilst there are many great individuals within organisations in our country, perhaps more individuals have some key skills, knowledge and/or right attitudes lacking. This makes otherwise easy things more difficult and complicated in successfully running our organisations. 

In a three-part series in September 2021, we took up staffing and covered a few important matters to do with getting the best people, and keeping and developing them in your organisation. In addition to the measures suggested then, I think taking the time and committing other resources to coach our people to achieve performance objectives can help improve the situation gradually. Today, therefore, we will take up coaching as a specific activity that can be undertaken by employers for the development, productivity enhancement and loyalty of the people. 

What is Coaching? Obviously, even prior to the industrial revolution from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries, individuals underwent training in trades, crafts, and professions. However, it was the industrial revolution that led to the formal shaping of the concept of coaching as a way of increasing employee productivity. This was around the same time various management and organisational concepts were being ‘scientifically’ developed as well. 

Coaching gained fast, popular, and deep acceptance in the world of sports and athletics, so much so that to date the word ‘coaching’ is generally connected to the individual that instructs individual and team members in various sports. When coaching was re-accepted in the business world in the 1970s, it was generally by way of bringing in external coaches to help fix toxic behaviour at the top that was trickling down. Some stigma was therefore attached to coaching. Today, however, coaching is a badge of honour for organisations, the coaches, and trainees, with the organisations developing their own coaching systems and programs across different levels. 

Coaching refers to the activities involved in training an individual or group of individuals towards building their knowledge, sharpening their skills and shaping their attitudes for the purposes of enhancing their productivity and/or overcoming performance problems. It is a developmental process of learning wherein the trainee or trainees is/are guided by a coach through asking questions, offering advice, making suggestions, conducting exercises, etc. Coaching situations and environments differ and, therefore, the coaching methods and processes differ from one situation and environment to another. Regardless of the details though, coaching entails close observation, engagement, and providing feedback.  

In a corporate setting, which is our interest here, coaching is about providing guidance, advisory and supportive roles to another individual with a view to achieving corporate goals through the attainment of the trainee’s full potential. 

We should note the following about coaching:

• It is an ongoing staff development process that is designed and executed internally within an organisation to help employees of all levels continuously improve their competencies and get things done towards achieving the organisation’s objectives.

• Various techniques are employed to stimulate employees towards improving their existing skills, gaining new skills and reaching their full potential.

• It is about getting people to become the best versions of themselves at work.

Coaching is different but often confused with mentoring and counselling. To appreciate the difference, it is important to realise that a coach is not about treating mental health problems, mood disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, and such. In these situations, refer the case to the right health professionals. To this extent, also, it should be understood that a coach should not try to play the role of a counsellor in their relationship with a trainee beyond what may reasonably be within the scope of the objectives and job at hand.  

The extent of direction, structure, regularity/frequency of contact, fluidity of objective, etc. determines whether a relationship is that of a coach and trainee or of a mentor and mentee. Generally, coaching is more specific on objectives while mentoring is more general. Coaching provides general guidance on narrow, identified and focussed short- and medium-term objectives in sight while mentoring is more directive on broad, fluid and even unpredictable long-term objectives. Furthermore, coaching is structured, with regular contact and a reasonably firm agenda, while mentoring relationship, on the other hand, is more unstructured, with irregular contact.  

The Purpose and Benefits of Coaching: Regardless of the context, the fundamental purpose of coaching is to maximise people’s performance and productivity. According to the Institute of Coaching, over 70% of individuals that received coaching benefitted from work performance, improved relationships and more effective communication. Coaching helps achieve greater staff discretionary output and increased innovation. It also increases overall productivity, better work quality, and the achievement of financial results at lower costs. Coaching staff within an organisation enhances employee experiences through better relationship development and management, increased engagement, and collaboration between colleagues. Coaching has also been established to help staff reduce anxiety and stress through positive behaviour. It is also a key determinant in shaping organisational culture.

Elements of Coaching: The elements of coaching are the Coach, the Trainee, Philosophy and Principles, Goals, Systems and Processes, and the Environment as shown in the schematic below. These shall be the basis of our discussions in the series. 

Today we have introduced what coaching is, the purpose and benefits of coaching as well as the elements of coaching. Next week, we will begin to take up each of the elements of coaching in greater detail.