Skills Coaching for Actual Humans: How to Level-Up without Losing Heart

Get out of here, robots. This one isn’t for you. 

We’re all guilty of considering ourselves as little productivity machines sometimes. We overbook our schedules, say “yes” to far too many projects, and forget that we don’t have to have all of the answers like our sassy voice-activated assistants do.

But, in reality, no one is perfectly suited to their job 100% of the time. We’re wonderfully imperfect humans that can still do Better Work without sacrificing our souls. After all, it’s human nature to want to improve ourselves and our teams.

One helpful method to propel your team to the next level is skills coaching. Skills coaching is a holistic approach to development that focuses on the core skills someone needs to perform their role well. It’s a great way to address performance gaps with employees or to boost top producers’ skills from good to great. 

A Human-First Approach to Skills Coaching 

If the phrase ‘personalized skills coaching makes you want to cringe, you’ve probably never experienced coaching with a healthy dose of humanity sprinkled in. And, as a manager, it’s even more difficult to figure out how to develop coaching skills without sacrificing your soul. Let’s take a look at a few ways to strengthen coaching skills for managers while maintaining a human-first mentality.

1. Deal with the whole human. 

One of the tenets of good skills coaching is the concept of a “holistic” approach. This means that it’s important to understand each person’s skills through a combination of reflection, observation, and metrics. Each of these methods helps paint a more complete picture of the person you’re working with and the specific areas or skills they need to be coached in. 

Whether it’s negotiation skills, communication skills, or specific industry-related skills, coaching is a proven method that drives better business results. Embracing it will make you and your teammates better employees—and better humans. 

2. Approach skills coaching like it’s a two-way street. 

Look both ways when considering how to improve coaching skills in the workplace. Skills coaching should not feel like a one-sided conversation or a dictated development plan. Both the coach and learner should feel a sense of ownership over the steps, tasks, and priorities to focus on. 

At Lessonly, we like to call this “getting more agreements.” All too often, we expect behaviors or actions from someone without actually verbalizing them. Spoiler alert: unspoken expectations lead to disappointment. During the coaching process, aim for explicit agreements to give everyone the chance to say what they need, discuss what’s possible, and move forward with next steps that everyone understands.

3. Personalize. Personalize. Personalize. 

A cookie-cutter coaching plan can make reps feel like a nameless, faceless cog in the machine that is your organization.  That’s why it’s beneficial to Individualize your coaching plans and alter the experience for each reps’ needs, learning styles, and preferences. Does this rep need communication coaching? Or, should they focus more on improving their negotiation tactics? Do they have any blatant knowledge gaps? And, if so, are those gaps from a lack of training or simply a lack of effort? 

Remember, one of the hardest parts of skills coaching for managers is focusing on the right things. But, a personalized coaching plan improves the likelihood that learners will work on the skills that will make them a more successful employee and human. 

4. Remember to build up the good too. 

A constant stream of harsh criticism can cause humans with even the toughest exterior to feel a little dead inside.. This is a common source of frustration in most coaching skills training journeys.

If coaching is the same thing as criticism in your mind, it’s time to reframe your definition. Effective coaching reinforces good behaviors while gently eradicating negative ones, so don’t forget to praise the progress you see along the way.

5. Build coaching into your regular routine. 

Coaching should not be your big red emergency button. Don’t wait for a dramatic downturn or sharp productivity slump to practice effective coaching skills. Phoned-in annual reviews, frantic performance improvement plans, or checklist-style training programs leave learners feeling unsupported, unheard, and undervalued. Instead, leave room in your day-to-day flow to provide feedback right in your reps’ time of need. 

6. Don’t forget the coach needs coaching too. 

Coaching doesn’t just drive better results in young upstarts or eager sales reps. There’s also value in skills coaching for managers. Don’t forget that you, as the coach, need to be coached sometimes too. 

That’s because humans naturally model the behaviors of other humans. So, if you want to see a behavior spread like wildfire through your team, embody that behavior wholeheartedly. Adopt a regular coaching practice into your own life and encourage your team to do the same. (Bonus: It will make you a better manager—and human—in the process.) 

Level-Up with Lessonly 

Still wondering how to improve coaching skills in the workplace? Great coaching drives 76% better business results. Explore our Next-Level Coaching ebook to learn five ways your team can win with personalized skills coaching.

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