Does your company help develop employees through coaching?
Not to be confused with training, coaching is a much more collaborative process that helps to bring out someone’s best work. In fact, two-thirds of employees cite that coaching improved their performance within their company and also improved their satisfaction (1).
Coaching sessions can include open-ended questions and discussion on personal and professional goals and objectives. If coaching happens consistently, it can strengthen relationships between managers/employees and between peers. It can reinforce the right kind of behaviors you want to see in your business to promote safety and health. Last, it also helps workers have more support as they work through challenges or problems, both personally and professionally (2, 3, 4).
Here are top tips you can utilize for effective safety coaching:
1. Don’t assume leaders know how to coach
Make sure your leaders are equipped to start coaching before you ask them to do so. For example, a common misconception is that coaching is where specific performance feedback can be given. While coaching can influence an employee’s performance, a coaching session is not the same as a review session, even if your current reviews are informal.
First, help your leaders recognize that coaching is an open-ended conversation that is aimed at helping someone improve…and that is in all areas of their life. On the other hand, an evaluation is going to tell give specific feedback to someone regarding their performance. If coaching is what you’re after, make sure your leaders know that difference (2).
Second, teach your leaders how to use open-ended questions during their coaching sessions. Instead of asking a question that can be answered with a simply “yes” or a “no,” open ended inquiries can be used to help lead someone into potential solutions. It also helps them to better reflect and to become more self-aware. These kind of questions can also give the coach more context about a challenge someone is facing. Last, they also keep the focus on the person who is receiving the coaching.
For example, if someone is having uncertainty with how to resolve a safety-related issue on their team, avoid immediately giving them potential solutions. Instead, ask them questions by using words such as “what and “how.”
That could sound like: “How do you envision this process changing?” or, “What have you considered doing to change the way things are done?”
By giving them the opportunity to reflect and talk out the solution, leaders can remain focused on listening. After hearing more from the person, then a coach can potentially offer alternatives to consider. Getting good at coaching takes practice, but at least try to teach your people some of the subtle shifts in their behavior that can help the dialogue be productive and authentic (1, 5).
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2. Make sure it’s a two-way conversation
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Since a coach is often going to be in a position where they are helping to drive some kind of change, make sure you are having a two-way conversation that allows for that to happen. Avoid the temptation to make it all about yourself.
In addition, if you are the one doing the coaching, avoid the tendency to share all your stories that are similar to the person being coached; after all, the focus is on them, not you. Again, this is where leading or empowering questions can be a very effective tool to use.
3. Provide ‘just enough’ structure
Coaching—even if it’s peer to peer coaching—won’t necessarily happen on its own. Like anything with your culture, be as intentional as possible about how your coaching sessions are going to be implemented. Companies with effective safety coaching take the time to develop strategies and internal processes that support a culture of coaching (4, 5).
Especially when a company is first introducing coaching, structure is going to help. Give guidance on responsibilities related to coaching, coaching duration, the type of coaching you are looking for, and any desired outcomes or measurement of feedback that you want captured (4, 5).
4. Avoid punishment
Coaching sessions should be focused on empowering people to succeed. This means you want to avoid the perception that there will be negative consequences from anything discussed in your session.
Look to avoid any kind of punishment or discipline in these sessions. That doesn’t mean there can’t be accountability, but these sessions are not a place where there should be any kind of fear.
5. Capture the progress
Companies that are successful at safety coaching are able to capture and celebrate all the progress someone has made. Depending on the level of formality your sessions have, at the very least, celebrate small wins and successes. Then, when you can, be sure to capture contributions and share that with your team, when appropriate.
6. Encourage peer-to-peer coaching
Many of us think of a manager coaching a direct report, and in many cases, that’s going to be the kind of coaching relationship that is most effective. But also know that peer to peer coaching is extremely valuable and can also help to deepen relationships and improve morale in your company.
7. Customize your sessions to the learning curve of the employee being coached
Safety training typically requires everyone to meet minimum standards at a certain point in time. In contrast, your coaching sessions are going to have their own pace that is going to be different for everyone.
Embrace how these sessions are going to be mostly based on the learning curve of the employee who is being coached (4). In other words, with much less structure than a training session, coaching sessions are going to follow an employee’s progress—and that progress is going to ebb and flow at times (2, 3, 4).
8. Always come from a place of compassion
Coaching sessions are all about improving an employee and helping them develop in specific areas they care about. For that to happen, there has to be a deep sense of caring and mutual trust in any session. As a coach, you can help that happen by always coming from a place of compassion as you hear about someone’s personal challenges, issues, and perceptions.
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