Be A Role Player… when coaching!

CoachingThe concept of “role play” is not meant to be deceptive or minimized.

During the course of coaching an associate or team member, please observe this basic Human Relations Principle: Be mindful of and careful to maintain or enhance the associate’s self-esteem, listen and respond with empathy, ask for the associate’s suggestions and encourage his or her involvement.

An effective performance coach must always clarify the current situation, explain or demonstrate the correct process and use empathetic or basic human relations principles and techniques while doing so.

If you are apprehensive about coaching someone for improvement because you are afraid to offend the person or meet some resistance, ask a friend to help you role-play your initial approach, the way you give instruction, and how you use the basic human relations principle.

Don’t be afraid to use a tape recorder or video camera in your preparations.

When you begin to work out your technique, think of an associate whose recent performance requires coaching for improvement, select the colleague or friend and explain the details of the team member’s situation.  Ask your partner to play the role of the associate, taking on the associate’s point of view and responding to your coaching attempts as realistically as possible. Explain that it would be natural for this associate to become resistant or defensive, and your partner should display these behaviors.  If the associate’s response is unpredictable, you may have to role-play the scenario several times to simulate each possible response.

After the various role plays, review you audio or video of the interaction to develop additional insight about the nonverbal messages you send and receive such as hand gestures, facial expressions, and body positions.

Your initial questions should be directed toward discovering as much information as possible about the team member’s current knowledge and behavior to identify what kind of help is needed so you can effectively communicate performance expectations using specific targets of quantity, quality, cost, or time.

Next, help the associate to set realistic yet challenging expectations for improvement and discuss how improving the skill/knowledge areas will help the associate, the team, the organization, and the customer. Ask for and obtain agreement on who will do what by when and outline the specific actions you will take to support the learning process.

After the role play, ask your partner for feedback and suggestions about their feelings during this session and if you were clear about the behaviors, knowledge, and proficiency levels required for success. Also, ask for and identify areas for improvement in your performance to include the clarity of explaining targets in a clear and realistic way to generate the desired level of commitment to the improvement plan. It would be very helpful if you are able to develop some alternative ways to approach some of the issues.

Ask your partner these questions:

What went well and why?

What could I have done differently?  Why?

How did you feel afterward?

How will you measure the success of my coaching?

Based on what you learned from the role play, what could you do to prepare for the actual discussion to make it successful?

Next, you can work on your coaching style, providing guidance, balancing your questions with how much information you provide. Another technique is to show some examples of completed work to provide the visual imagery that may help the team member.

After you finish the role play, solicit feedback and suggestions about your performance. You may want to adjust your coaching style to fit the situation and the associate. It is important to express confidence in the team member’s ability to meet expectations and achieve the necessary level of commitment to accomplish organizational goals.

Related Articles:   Coaching … how did I do?   and   When an Associate Struggles … COACH!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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