Acclaimed athletes and international sports teams have many of them – coaches for different aspects of the game or discipline. This group of professional advisors often includes physiotherapists and masseurs, sports psychologists, nutritionists, fitness specialists and even doctors, quite apart from analysts, agents and the like. All the personnel exist for one thing alone – to keep improving individual or team performance week on week. Their job is to get athletes to the top of their game and keep them performing at that level. They want them to win over and over again.

As a sizable portion of what a company does is executed by employees, managers need to view part of their leadership role as being that of a coach – improving the skillsets of their own employees, keep them performing at that level and also developing new skills and competencies within the group. One of the current best-known leadership and management authors, Tom Peters, defines coaching in the following way: “Coaching is face-to-face leadership that pulls together people from diverse backgrounds, talents, experience and interest, encourages them to step up to responsibility and continued achievement and treats them as full-scale partners and contributors”. Such coaching leads to enhanced team effectiveness and greater personal pride.

It would seem that the underlying message in the above Peter’s definition is the notion that ‘you belong – you are part of what goes on around here and you can contribute’. It implies that every employee is treated as a fully-fledged team member and involves making sure the person has ready access to relevant information, training and that performance objectives are clear. It suggests belief in the person – that employees have the ability to learn and that they want to contribute. It is characterised by steadfast support and implied mutual accountability.

Pointing out areas of needed performance improvement should not be viewed as criticism – criticism, by definition and in its intent, is destructive and designed to pull someone down. Receiving constructive feedback, on the other hand, helps reduce blind spots in one’s progress attempts and focuses on enhancing one’s performance overall. Ken Blanchard (et al), in ‘The 3 Keys to Empowerment’, notes: “The development of an individual to his or her highest level of performance can be seen as a journey of empowerment”. Managers are responsible to create this environment where empowerment becomes a possibility.

Effective coaching is the key to unlocking the potential of employees. It grows the overall skillsets of members of the team and develops confidence. Even more importantly, it spurs people on to take responsibility and to be accountable for their focus and energy. “Coaching is about people being more, doing more, achieving more, and above all, contributing more” (Julie Starr, The Coaching Manual).

Free To Grow offers the workshop “Helping People Grow” to enhance coaching skills for leaders