Over this past year, my wife and I have had the opportunity to help our first and third graders each evening with their homework. What an awesome and humbling adventure! I’ve learned that it’s not just fifth graders that are smarter than their parents.
Along the way what we also discovered is that our children’s interest and engagement in completing their homework and furthering their education is a direct reflection of three things: (1) mine and my wife’s personal efforts to model good study habits, (2) our effectiveness in carving out healthy routines and consistent blocks of time for reading and homework, and (3) our praise, support, and recognition of the effort and success in our children’s studies. When we pay attention to these three specific things, homework—and better yet, actually learning—happens.
The same thing shows up in the workplace. If a company or organization hopes to gain traction on any initiative, the leaders of that organization need to embrace and use it personally, tie it to what’s practical and important, and support the heck out of it. In other words they need to model, align, and support.
A 2014 I4CP research study on workplace coaching (How the Best Companies Use Coaching to Accelerate Productivity) offered some powerful insights into how high-performing companies are getting more out of their coaching initiatives than others. Not surprisingly one of the findings was the importance of the leaders’ role in creating a coaching culture. When leaders model coaching activity themselves, create connections and visibility for coaching activity to drive specific team or company goals, and visibly support and reinforce others in their efforts to acquire and use good coaching habits, then coaching and the desired benefits of coaching happens.
Too often coaching is seen primarily as a developmental initiative—and it’s not hard to see why. The research shows that it’s one of the highest-leveraged training competencies for managers. But it’s the business results that good coaching delivers that are most important, and that takes more than training. As a summary of the I4CP study states, “A culture of coaching helps employees reach new goals, teams to achieve greater synergy, and companies to accelerate their productivity—It doesn’t simply arise from launching a new initiative, it is created from the individual and collective efforts of those who coach effectively and those who are effectively coached.”
Bottom line, good coaching is about accelerating results. Manager-as-coach training is a means to a much greater end, just like homework is a means to kids performing well in the classroom. Whether a manager attends coach training at all and the commitment they have to use those coaching skills in the workplace is greatly influenced by their senior leader’s commitment to modeling, aligning, and supporting those efforts. Although it takes time and energy, the good news is that you don’t need to be much smarter than a fifth grader to deliver on those important roles.