by Patrick Gallen, Partner, People & Change Consulting at Grant Thornton Ireland
What makes a good coach? When we think about a coach, our first thought may be of sports coaches, and images of wild gesticulating on the side-lines to rallying pep talks. If we’ve had good coaches, most of us may think about coaches as people that motivate, support and inspire us.
People don’t always associate the idea of coaching with the workplace, however for the past 30-years, many leaders have embraced coaching as a way of developing employees and driving organisational performance. The skill sets are transferrable, and there is no arguing with the evidence that good coaches produce better results.
There has never been a more important time or greater need for incorporating a coaching approach into leadership styles. With the increasingly demanding changes brought about by the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic, blended working environments, amendments to legislation, advancements in technology and human interconnectivity – among others – all contributing to increased pressures experienced by staff on a daily basis. There is a need for leaders to put on their coaching hat and listen, ask questions, challenge thinking, and provide support to their team.
If employees are not supported through periods of change, there can be a detrimental impact on engagement and ultimately, performance. In a recent survey done by Forbes Magazine, only 33% of employees report feeling engaged, and companies with greater levels of employee engagement are on average 22% more profitable.
Research proves that coaching improves employee morale, boosts engagement, enhances employee retention, and drives productivity. Even tech companies such as Meta, Google and Apple increasingly seek workers with ‘soft skills’, like coaching.
So, what makes a good coach and what can you do to better coach your team?
Lead with humility, openness and authenticity: The old model of ‘leader as hero’ can be replaced with a model that is humble and open. It is good to try to be open to questions and approachable, and if there is something you don’t have an answer for, don’t be afraid to say so! This can foster an authentic sense of relationship transparency, which roots relationships of trust.
Shared purpose and values: Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees. Effective coaches can empower organisational focus, team cohesion, and group resilience by stepping back from the noise, and redirecting attention to the shared purpose and values of the team.
Trust and communication: It may seem obvious, but effective coaching is centred around communication. By keeping teams informed, and encouraging frequent communication, employees can feel more in control and involved. Enabling vertical as well as horizontal communication – and employing a healthy sense of humour – can go a long way here.
Team support: Psychological safety is vital for teams during times of change. Would your team benefit from a safe space and having their voices heard in decisions that affect them? Do your people feel free to speak up, disagree, or challenge? Coaches help create that environment.
Celebrate success: It’s human nature to more often acknowledge when things are going wrong as opposed to right. However, effective coaches give credit where credit is due.
As the old adage goes, ‘people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers’ – what can you do to be the coach that your team needs?
About the author
Patrick is the Partner leading Grant Thornton’s People and Change Consulting practice in Ireland. He has over 30 years of experience in People and Change, working right across Ireland, the UK and on a global basis. He specialises in delivering behavioural change through capability building, which can range from working on complex transformation projects right through to coaching senior Board members on a one-to-one basis. Patrick has deep cross-sectoral experience and his clients include large global banking and financial institutions, utility companies and well-known global brands in the food and drinks sector. His clients in the public and semi-state sector include Government Departments in the UK and Ireland, including Treasury and Finance Departments, Transport, Health and Utilities.