Workplace Coaching Basics
I recall an experience with my teenage son which reminds me that – in all aspects of work and life – we can either be the coach… or the learner.
With a new driver’s permit tucked inside in his wallet, my son slid behind the wheel, adjusted the mirrors and intently pressed the accelerator. The car jerked forward, steadied, and then inched around the lamp post in the center of the parking lot. It was his first time behind the wheel and the beginning of many hours I would spend coaching him through the complexities of driving.
But, when we got home, it was his turn to coach me.
“Can you help me with this?” I asked my son. A couple taps, a swipe, a double tap, and another swipe later my son returned my phone to me. “There,” he said. “You’re all set.”
“Wait,” I said as he walked away. “Show me what you just did.”
To his credit, he returned and patiently walked me through the steps of installing and using an app that would allow me to send texts internationally. He explained what he did and why. And, then he showed me. “You got this Mom,” he said. “Let’s pick another app and you can do it…”
And there it is…the basics of teaching others: Tell, Show, Do.
Coaching takes time. Coaching skills are an art but they're easy to learn. At work, we’re already under a time crunch, feeling the pressure to complete our day’s tasks. But, the coaching investment means building skills, and that translates to higher productivity and a stronger team.
Here are four coaching tips, based on Tell, Show, and Do, that are as relevant for peer-to-peer coaching as manager-to-peer.
1) Prepare the learner: TELL your co-worker what needs to be done and why. Explain how the task you are teaching relates to the job, the department’s goals, and the organization’s mission. Describe the big picture.
According to Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in adult learning, adults need to understand the relevance of what they are learning. As the coach, provide context and help your co-worker connect the dots.
2) Demonstrate: SHOW your co-worker how to perform the task. Adult learners want to have an active role in the learning experience. Let your co-worker observe, take notes, and ask questions.
3) Allow the learner to perform the skill: Give your co-worker an opportunity to DO the task. Let them try the skill as you observe and provide feedback. Experience, including mistakes, is important to the learning process. Be patient; remember they are learning something new.
4) Follow up: Let your co-worker know you are available for questions as they work to master the skill. Check-in occasionally to see how your co-worker is doing building the new skill.
When You Need Coaching
What if you’re the one who needs help? When you need help with a new task:
Speak up. Ask a co-worker or manager for help. Describe the task, and the need.
Answer questions fully and honestly. It’s no help to you or your coach if you aren’t forthright. If you don’t understand, say so. If you need another demonstration, ask for one.
Practice. A new skill isn’t mastered overnight. Practice what you’ve learned and ask your coach for additional help or tips if you falter. Be patient with yourself; remember you are learning something new.
Some days we are the coach and other times, we are the learner. Both roles require patience and a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that talents and skills can be developed through hard work and input from others (in other words, feedback and coaching). In whatever role you find yourself today, enjoy the journey.
For video training in this area, we recommend these training programs:
When the Coach is You
Or browse our Coaching videos category.
Michele Eby works for Media Partners as an instructional designer. She has worked in the training and development field for nearly 20 years.