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Gary Cattermole

The Survey Initiative


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11 top tips for good coaching


The sports world would never be without their top coaches, and neither should we. Here Gary Cattermole advises businesses of his top tips to coaching.

Preparation is key

The coach needs to understand what the business wants to gain from the sessions, as well as what the member of staff wants to gain. It may be necessary for the coach to help management set goals and long-term business objectives so that they play a fundamental role on a strategic level.

Coaching or mentoring – the best option?

In a nutshell, coaching uses questioning and listening techniques to bring out the full potential of a person and the relationship between the two people involved is more on an even keel to create an environment for the individual to learn for themselves. In comparison, mentors act as advisors suggesting new paths for individuals to take – a little like the relationship between teacher and pupil.

Consider a 360-degree survey

Many people are scared of the thought of a 360-degree survey and we would also recommend training to help an employee through the process. This style of survey is ideal to benchmark a full picture of an individual about to embark on coaching and is also great for measuring the success of the activity. 

Listening skills are non-negotiable

The ability to listen and not judge is a coach’s most useful skill. If they don’t listen they won’t ask the right questions in order to understand what lies at the root of an individual’s feelings and performance. 

Convey the value of the process

It is important that staff don’t feel threatened by the coaching process; that they understand it is has been put in place to help, not to penalise and that it will enable them to understand how they can progress their career within the organisation

Ask the right questions

A coach should endeavour to ask open-ended questions and avoid questions that could be construed as confrontational, such as ‘why?’ Instead, a question that allows the individual to examine their performance or decisions in a non-confrontational manner, such as ‘How did you arrive at that decision’ is much more productive. 

Don’t try to provide the answers

The role of a coach isn’t to provide the answers but to question and open discussion to allow the person being coached to arrive at their own answers. If a person embarks on a journey of self-discovery, they are more likely to learn from it and adapt than if they are told they need to change. 

Confidentiality is key

People being coached will only open up if they trust that the process is non-judgmental and confidential. They must be allowed to decide what information is shared outside the room and with whom. 

Baby steps

By setting achievable goals staff won’t feel as daunted about the journey that lies ahead of them. Breaking the journey into smaller steps with goals along the way will work favourably on two levels – it makes the process appear less ominous and will also increase the individual’s confidence when goals are achieved along the way.

Be open-minded 

There is no right or wrong path - employees respond to different stimuli, meaning that one person’s route to success may not work for someone else. Coaches need to be careful not to see someone’s preferred path as wrong if they are not privy to all the information about the individual – also, we learn from our mistakes so failure can be an important part of a person’s journey to success.

Agree on next steps

If you are going to be involved in the coaching process throughout the life cycle of a project, you will need to set some tasks for an individual to undertake, that will allow you both to gauge whether the coaching is productive. If the coach is coaching on a sessional basis, next steps still need to be agreed. These goals may take the form of reaching a key stage in the project or preparing for the next session by carrying out some analysis or a piece of strategic thinking. 

Gary Cattermole is director of the award-winning employee research company, The Survey Initiative

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Gary Cattermole


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