An estate agency manager called me to book a young valuer onto a course, explaining that he was concerned that the valuer in question was failing to achieve an acceptable conversion rate from appointments to instructions, which the manager felt in part might be due to him rushing his valuations. Often, his employee was back from appointments within 20 minutes of leaving the office, and the manager couldn’t understand how he could carry them out so quickly.
Whilst I am always delighted to welcome delegates onto our training courses and to play a part in their development, it struck me that this scenario involved a coaching need rather than a training need, and it was apparent from the rest of the conversation with this manager that coaching was not an integral part of his working life. However, on my travels around the country delivering training and consultancy work, there seems a strong link between the time invested by a manager in coaching the individuals within the team and the success that the team enjoy.
Coaching needs careful planning in terms of content and allocation of time to ensure it happens. Poor prioritisation often means that in reality, even where a manager has good intentions, coaching falls by the wayside as other “more important” events take over.
Proactive managers recognise that the host of benefits that result from spending time developing individuals make the investment of time well worthwhile. Those benefits include improved motivation and staff retention, enhancing skills and knowledge to increase productivity, enabling staff to multi-task to facilitate manning during periods of holidays and sickness and easier delegation for the managers themselves.
Effective coaching involves following five key stages, each of which are outlined below.
A manager must be aware of the coaching needs of their employees by ongoing monitoring of their successes and failures in their work. Watching, listening and recording examples where duties are conducted by employees in a manner which suggests room for improvement are critical elements of the manager’s role. In the example above, the manager would have been wise to accompany his failing valuer on a few appointments to identify areas of weakness in their approach…at the very least this would answer the question as to why the valuations were so swift!
Diligence in spotting the opportunity means the subsequent coaching will deal with real issues that need addressing.
The coaching itself needs to be tailored to the individual and a number of issues must be considered. These include the knowledge and current skill level of the employee, previous coaching provided and the effectiveness thereof, the most suitable method of the coaching itself and the likely attitude of the member of staff to receiving coaching. The latter is particularly important as the provision of coaching, if handled inappropriately, can demotivate as there is an inherent challenge to the recipient’s ability.
The coach must explain the goal of the coaching and the benefits that the recipient will enjoy, as well as the change of working behaviour and habits that the employee needs to adopt. Demonstration by the coach to clarify exactly what is expected is critical…a “tell” session is unlikely to succeed. In the previous case above, the manager should consider taking the valuer to several valuations to watch the manager in action to identify the standards required. A full review should then be conducted as to how the employee needs to modify their approach to close the gap between their current performance and the manager’s expectations. The manager must then accompany the valuer on a number of appointments to monitor and review progress accordingly. Staffing levels will potentially make this suggested coaching programme tricky, but the time invested will lead to improvement in performance and income thus making it time very well spent.
As the coachee learns new working habits (alongside unlearning existing ones), there can be a difficult transition and a tendency to fall back to the old ways, due to a discomfort in doing things differently. The manager must continue to monitor behaviour and be quick to praise success and encourage the employee to embrace his/her behavioural changes. Coaching is not a one-off session, but an ongoing responsibility. Changing habits is not easy…just ask people who have tried to quit smoking!
After an agreed period of time, results must be reviewed and the effectiveness of the coaching assessed. If the change in behaviour has been achieved then it is time to move on…if there is still evidence of unsatisfactory results then it is up to the manager to revisit stage one of the coaching process and spot the appropriate opportunity.
Spot Opportunity, Tailor, Explain, Encourage, Review…the manager who follows those five stages of effective coaching will STEER their staff to success.
TM training & development