Coaching Techniques: The Many Hats of the Business Coach
At times, she is a counsellor; at others, a trainer; and sometimes even a mentor or partner… A good business coach effectively wears many hats and can seamlessly change her approach to best respond to her client’s needs at different stages of the coaching process.
In “Choosing a Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation”, an essay featured in Capacity Development in Practice, authors Douglas Champion, David Kiel and Jean Mc Lendon identify nine different roles the coach may adopt when interacting with a client: counsellor, facilitator, reflective observer, coach, teacher, technical adviser, partner, modeller and hands-on expert.
What defines these different these roles, how do they differ and when is each most appropriate to use?
1. Counsellor: “You do it; I will be your sounding board.”
Where, by definition, coaching aims to help employees achieve their goals, the aim of counselling is to help them address and resolve problems that make them feel bad emotionally. In other words, the basic presumption of coaching is that clients are in a good place to start with. The coach dons the counsellor’s hat when she helps individuals or teams ask the right questions to get to the roots of their difficulties, in order to establish what is impairing their ability to function well.
2. Facilitator: “You do it; I will attend to the process.”
Facilitation is defined as helping a group of people decide what results they want to achieve together and how they want to achieve them, and then assisting them in achieving these goals. Coaches use facilitation to lead group discussions that result in clearly stated ideas and well thought-out conclusions. The coach becomes a facilitator when she assists with the group’s “journey”, helping its members to make decisions, solve problems and plan ahead as unit.
3. Reflective Observer: “You do it; I will watch and tell you what I see and hear.”
When the coach takes this guise, she uses her observational skills – above all, effective listening – to collect data and then feed this back to the client. Core competencies of the coach as “reflective observer” include being comfortable with silence and being substantively neutral during group discussions.
4. Coach: “You did well; you can add this next time.”
Coaching takes place for the purpose of creating a path for change. Typically, it is designed to result in effective action, improved performance, and/or personal growth for the individual and improved business results for the company. Just as a sports coach can identify what needs to be done differently and guide an athlete through the process, so the business coach assists the individual in learning how to perform at the next level. Coaching is the appropriate method to use when the client is highly motivated; the areas designated for improvement are within the coach’s realm of expertise; and the individual or organisation provides the resources necessary to see the endeavour through, from start to finish.
5. Teacher: “Here are some principles you can use to solve problems of this type.”
Coaches fill the teacher-trainer role when clients need to develop or enhance knowledge, skills and attitudes to improve performance. In the process of teaching, the coach will need to be a skillful communicator so that clients understand the meaning and intent of the experience. She must also be aware of the learners’ needs and sensitive to their issues. The “teacher” coach’s roles may include presenter, demonstrator, guide and administrator.
6. Technical Advisor: “I will answer your questions as you go along.”
When a business needs specific expertise on a subject that lies outside their normal area of work, they typically hire a technical advisor. When the coach wears this hat, she effectively assists the business in understanding and performing tasks in its area of expertise in compliance with best practice. She may design a programme for the company and will provide the structure and support needed to keep those involved focused, on track and accountable. She may also supply direction on the material and technology needed to support growth and success.
7. Partner: “We will do it together and learn from each other.”
By definition, partners share responsibility for results and growth. The “partner” role is one often adopted when coaching managers or entrepreneurs, as they are generally looking for further expertise, advice and guidance; someone with whom they can share concerns and admit failings without judgment: a true partner, in other words. Key to the “partner” role is the establishment of a rapport and a relationship of trust and safety between coach and client.
8. Modeller: “I will do it; you watch so you can learn from me.”
Similar to mentoring, “modelling” essentially means to walk alongside someone in order to learn from them. The “modeller” coach typically develops people by sharing knowledge that provides opportunities for networking, team-building, leadership development, and career mobility. The “modelling” relationship is nurtured by a mutual understanding of the goals and desired outcomes of the relationship and is guided by measurements, accountability, and results in learning and growth.
9. Hands-on Expert: “I will do it for you. I will tell you what to do.”
While the “expert” role effectively puts responsibility for client results in the hands of the coach, it is sometimes necessary to wear this hat. For example, the coach might assume the “expert” role when the coaching assignment requires a general framework from which to develop or operate systems, such as a performance management system. She may also be “expert” when the project needs knowledge that is highly specialised and proceduralised, for example, conducting research, conforming to laws and regulations, or using specific tools for problem solving and decision-making.
It goes without saying, then, that coaching demands several interlocking skills and, in any given session, a good coach may have to move effortlessly from one role to another in what appears to be a seamless interaction. Champion et al recommend that the coach and client use their nine-role model, or Collaboration Grid, to decide right from the outset what type of role is appropriate for the task at hand. They provide five steps for effectively doing this:
1. Clarify the organisation’s need for results and growth.
2. Openly discuss the current capacities of the client and coach.
3. Use the Collaboration Grid to identify an appropriate match.
4. Ensure that all parties have the support they need.
5. Commit to the agreed-upon roles and responsibilities.
If you are interested in business coaching, why not consider studying at SACAP? The South African College of Applied Psychology’s Graduate School of Coaching & Leadership offers a Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching (NQF Level 8), which is aligned with the International Coach Federation (ICF), and Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA).