4 steps for managers to ensure staff is ready to receive coaching

As a coaching firm, Camden Consulting Group hears this on a regular basis, but it tends to raise a potential warning flag. Often, it is a rallying cry without an accompanying desire, understanding, or readiness to seek change from the coachee—the individual receiving the training. It is critical to have a coachee who is cognizant of why he or she is getting coaching and motivated for the coaching to start.

To increase the success rate of coaching, companies, specifically the coachee’s manager and HR department, need to accomplish four steps before the professional coach is brought onboard:

  1. Introduce the role of the sponsor: This is about the role the sponsor needs to play to make a coaching engagement successful from the beginning.
  2. Provide specifics: This explains the “what” of the engagement, providing examples of why the employee is getting a coach.
  3. Align the manager and HR: It is critical that they and the company agree on the reasons the employee is in need of coaching. They should have similar examples and points of needed and desired improvement.
  4. Enlist the coachee: It is all about motivation. The manager and HR professional need to speak with the coachee to clearly explain why he or she is getting coaching.

The real point here is to have clarity of purpose and create a shared understanding with the coachee. What you must avoid is having an individual meet a coach and say, “I don’t know why I am here.” It happens, but there are ways to prevent it.

1. Introduce the role of the sponsor

Making time for the coaching to take place. With sponsorship, it should be straight-forward, with the coachee’s manager playing this role. At a basic level, everyone knows the manager is the sponsor; however, the manager should act like a sponsor. It is critical to have a manager involved in the coaching by doing the following:

By making time, the manger sends a strong signal that this is important. Conversely, the manager sends the wrong message if he or she does not make an effort.

TIP: Tell the coachee you will make time for the coaching and then actually be available.

2. Providing specifics (initial goals, feedback, and examples)

This should not be the first time someone is getting feedback. A crucial element in this process is for the sponsor (manager) to have initial goals, specific feedback and examples for the coaching candidate. This may sound crazy, but this seemingly simple step gets missed or vaguely done.

As a manager, you should have clear coaching goals in mind and clearly communicate a coherent, actionable list of these issues to the coachee. It should never be up to the coachee to figure out why he or she needs a coach. Generalizations are fine, but nothing helps more than specific feedback and examples.

As you prepare to get someone ready for coaching, you also must be prepared to answer these questions from the candidate:

TIP: Have the capability or competency you want a person to focus on, be very detailed, (e.g., developing your people, having a results focus, or effectively working through others), and provide examples.

3. Alignment of the manager and HR

The alignment of the manager and HR on the reasons for coaching is a powerful step. It requires more time, but alignment on the “why” of the coaching makes for a stronger case and helps to build a shared understanding. They should spend time discussing the situation and agree upon joint in-depth examples and goals.

Being aligned ensures that key messages are reinforced and common examples are used. It helps a coachee to hear similar messages from two different sources. Not every coachee needs this, but it is a very good step to take.

TIP: The manager and HR should ask, “Are we united on the reasons for this coaching?” If not, close the gaps.

4. Enlisting the coachee

Talking with the coachee about having a coach with the express purpose of enlisting him or her. Another critical part of getting someone “ready to go” for coaching is to communicate with him or her about it as a way to build motivation and have a shared understanding. This should always be discussed in person, not via e-mail. A common message is: “We want to invest in you and expand your capability, plus address issues that may be creeping up.”

TIP #1: Check for shared understanding; after you’ve talked with the coachee, ask him or her to describe why you want him or her to work with a coach. See if it matches your reasons; if not, continue your conversation.

TIP #2: Ask the candidate: “Are you ready to go?” If not, find out why, and close the gaps of understanding.

The above four steps will get a coachee ready to go so he or she can have a strong start to his or her coaching engagement. This does not mean all questions are answered and all concerns are resolved, but these steps done well will put your candidate on a firm foundation toward success.