Coaching the workforce: spotting and dealing with employees’ needs

A significant part of my work involves coaching the bosses of businesses here in the North East and beyond. I even have my own coach, who does the same for me.

How hypocritical would it be if I were to snub the very service I provide for others? I am, after all, running a business, just like those I coach. Besides, doing so is a great way to show that coaching is a positive thing, done for good reasons, rather than a remedial measure.

As well as working with bosses, I work with employees of businesses in a similar capacity, usually as a result of enlightened managers who have had a good coaching experience themselves.

There are a number of reasons why an employee might be referred to myself, or any other coach, the majority of which are for their own good, and that of the business. Often, an employee might see it as a sleight if they are sent to be coached, but actually, it is a huge compliment; the person making the referral sees that individual as worth investing in, as having potential which needs a helping hand to be realised.

One of the most common reasons for coaching is to instil robustness, to nurture the individual to become more emotionally-centred to deal with difficult situations and the challenges they face in and out of work. Others need empowering to deal with certain matters and it is a case of coaching them in a way which frees up their mind to take the actions they need to take.

For a boss, it is about creating resourcefulness among employees in advance, rather than dealing with misery and difficulties because they have failed to do so.

Part of coaching a boss is about helping that leader to get the best out of the people around them, encouraging them to look at what is going on in the business and identifying issues in others which can be similarly resolved.

But how do you identify a need for coaching? There are many ways, all of which simply require observation and an honest appraisal, not only of the individuals concerned, but also of the manager and their own issues.

We have all heard of games such as “buzz word bingo”, where employees enter a staff meeting with a list of phrases they tick off when they emerge from the mouth of the boss. I’d suggest a more valuable variation is for a boss to reverse the practice and play “anxiety bingo”, which is a great way of identifying where such issues need addressing.

Placing one’s own anxieties, or former anxieties on a card and ticking them off when they see it in others can focus the mind and not only help your own development through the realisation that it “isn’t just me”, but also help to spot where coaching is needed.

Coaching plays a major part in the development of many careers, but we need to ensure that the benefits are felt by all who need it.

David Cliff is Managing Director of Gedanken and Vice Chairman of the Institute of Directors’ County Durham and Sunderland Committee.