Editor’s note: This item, written by organizational development consultant and leadership coach Jorge Estrada, ran in the September 2008 edition of Dairy Herd Management.  

"Coaching" is a word that has increasingly become a part of the business world. One reason has been the rapid pace of change — and attempts by companies to manage that change. Leaders are constantly trying to see how they might become more effective with their people and produce positive results in the midst of change.

So, what are the most effective ways in managing people? How can you engage, empower and encourage people to be committed to the business?

Coaching is one of those sets of skills that make leaders more effective. Yet, many managers use the term "coaching" rather loosely.

Fred, a manager of a 3,500-cow dairy in the Midwest, told me that one of his supervisors, Raul, was not very good at delegating tasks. Rather than delegating, Raul would take on a lot of the work himself, not utilizing the strengths of the people that reported to him. Fred wanted to coach Raul, and I was present when Fred proceeded to have a conversation with Raul and told him — in a nice way — that he needed to delegate more of his work to his employees. Fred said this would help him become a better supervisor and allow him to complete some of the specific reports that Fred had been asking for.

Was this the most effective way to engage Raul? What if Raul had been asked to describe in his own words how he feels he is handling his responsibilities? That is, inquiring first to see how aware Raul was of the situation? If he had done this, I am certain that Fred would have achieved a different result.

Coaching, in the end, is not telling people what to do and how to do it. Coaching has more to do with helping people see the direction they need to go, and have them formulate the specific actions that will help them get there.  

  • Coaching is defined by the International Coaching Federation as partnering with people in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
  • Coaching uses a process of inquiry and personal discovery to build the person's level of awareness and responsibility. It provides the person with structure, support and feedback. The field of coaching combines applications from psychology, business management, systems theory, management consulting, and philosophy.
  • Coaching is the business of helping people develop into leaders. It also facilitates self-awareness, the development of success-producing actions, and proactive living.

In the case of Raul, a good coach would have engaged him with questions first in order to raise awareness and create self-examination. A good coach would have helped him identify goals and a vision for improved job performance.

A successful coach is able to develop people at all levels of the organization. What coaching skills do you need to be more effective?

A good coach...

  • Facilitates change in people and human systems.
  • Focuses people on their values and purposes.
  • Works with the "whole" of a person — professional and personal.
  • Allows for self-directed learning, growth and integrated development.
  • Leverages the advantages of age, gender, and cultural diversity.
  • Supports development of strategy and trains for sustained renewal and resilience.
  • Encourages collaboration and the use of teams.
  • Allows for visionary thoughts and strategic planning.
  • Helps build and guide future scenarios. 
  • Promotes high performance and achievement of results.
  • Inspires and motivates.
  • Challenges and confronts.