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Diane Coolican

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The importance of rapport in coaching


Coaching is vital, yet often undersold. Its success depends on the strength of the relationship built between the coach and coachee. Diane Coolican highlights the importance of building a strong rapport in coaching.

The most crucial part of a learning and development process is the coaching. Coaching offers the chance to put learning into practice, to explore individual goals and to be creative and innovative around personal challenges. 

Coaching not only supports personal development, but importantly can also influence behavioural and strategic change throughout the organisation. Leadership programmes that include some form of coaching are more successful in embedding new behaviours, skills and techniques which ultimately will impact on overall performance. This can sometimes be time intensive and expensive for companies and is often the part of a development programme that is reduced when budgets are tight - but this is a real false economy.  

Effective coaching rests on strong relationships – both with senior members of the organisation in order to ensure that company needs and targets are understood and met, and with those being coached to build essential trust and rapport. The coach/coachee relationship is best cultivated over a period of time, giving the opportunity for them to get to know one another and generate a long-term relationship. For the coach this is all about understanding what makes their trainee tick – what language do they use, what are their aspirations, what demotivates them. For the coachee, this is the opportunity to explore aspects of the programme in more depth if necessary, to learn and gain confidence in applying techniques introduced to them.

A long-term commitment and approach allows the coach to continually support the individual in fully embedding new behaviours over time and to address new challenges as they arise, which will undoubtedly impact on their performance and ultimately the company’s. This is the reason that coaching is perceived as an investment well spent.

The benefits far outweigh the costs involved. Companies that apply effective coaching tend to see an improvement in team harmony and morale and an increase in drive and ambition of employees, ultimately leading to increased sales and productivity. My top tips for effective coaching are:

  • Learning log – Encourage those taking part in the programme to log their experience after each session. Taking an interest in their individual development and being able to refer back to achievements will give confidence in their skills.
  • Get under the skin of the team – Ensure you understand the culture and different personalities within the organisation. This way you can use real examples within the training programme and embed the company’s values and morals from the offset. 
  • Know the organisation – Understand the organisation’s goals and match them with individual goals and motivations for the wider benefit of the business.
  • Take a personal interest in both team and individual goals – Show a commitment to tackling the different issues met by different members of the team. This helps the employee to see how meeting a personal goal can have a wider impact and help the team meet a target.
  • Ask questions that will create/unravel new perspectives – Asking questions is a good technique to encourage trainees to think around the subject and come up with their own solution. This helps develop creative thinking and gives the trainee confidence in their own abilities.
  • Build rapport – Get to know your trainee and talk to them on their level. Use the language that they use and the company jargon to demonstrate empathy and demonstrate interest in their motivations. Prepare fully for the session so that you remember small details that are important to the trainee and can draw upon them in the session.
  • Regularity – Set regular intervals for coaching sessions and ensure that each one achieves something new or an action for the trainee to give a sense of progress.
  • Plan - ensure the session is planned efficiently and you have a clear understanding of the process and structure the session will take.
  • Goal - know what it is you want to explore with your trainee, assess the challenges you face and what your end goal is.
  • Feedback – Ensure that senior management are given feedback on the impact of the sessions so that they can see the resulting business benefit. However, this must be balanced carefully by showcasing success without breaking any confidences of your coachee.

Diane Coolican is managing director at Redsky Learning. Redsky is an established learning and development specialist. While currently working throughout the UK, Redsky is increasingly delivering programmes to a wide range of international clients.


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