Coaching Offers the Power of Possibility in Virtual and In-Person Settings

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The Association for Talent Development (ATD) has released the second edition of 10 Steps to Successful Coaching.

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“Synchronous technological tools allow coach and coachee to connect from wherever they are in the world. This is important, and coaches have been doing this—even simply by phone—for decades." — Sophie Oberstein, author and founder of Full Experience Coaching

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) announces the release of 10 Steps to Successful Coaching, 2nd Edition. In this updated edition, Sophie Oberstein offers a primer and an entry point for anyone who wants—or has been asked—to do some formal or informal coaching whether in-person or in remote situations. It is also for anyone who wants to infuse their day-to-day interactions in the workplace with a powerful new skill—development through coaching.

Coaching skills are critical management competencies as organizations prepare a new generation of leaders, using fewer financial, human, and training resources. An explosion in the coaching market in recent years highlights the fact that the work environment continues to be complex, fast-paced, and pressured, and that employees at all levels can derive value from personalized, skilled help delivered in a structured, safe, one-on-one situation.

Oberstein offers 10 steps for navigating a formal coaching process or for informal coaching that takes places within the daily activities of managing others. “Coaching isn’t just about patting people on the back or providing enthusiastic encouragement,” says Oberstein. “It’s a powerful management tool to help employees realize their career aspirations. When managers and supervisors master the art of coaching, their relationships with their direct reports are strengthened—and that often translates to increased company loyalty and enhanced motivation among those reports. Maybe you simply want … the chance to connect with others at a deeper level and to promote learning and growth on the job. While this book will not make you a certified coach, it will make you more coach-like, and sometimes that is what is needed.”

Oberstein addresses the critical role technology now plays in the coaching relationship. Successful coaching can occur in remote and in-person settings, or a combination thereof. As a coach, it is important to stay current on available technologies so that you can be accessible and relevant to your coachees. Apps, video recording technology, and other tools can track targeted behaviors, facilitate virtual conversations and observations, and offer automated check-in capabilities that make data collection and feedback easier and immediate.

“Synchronous technological tools allow coach and coachee to connect from wherever they are in the world. This is important, and coaches have been doing this – even simply by phone – for decades. I’m more excited about some of the asynchronous opportunities to coach, as coachees can access these on their own schedule, in doses that are large or small, depending on what the coachee needs in the moment, and, most importantly, as they can give the coachee an opportunity to really think through what they want to say before they ‘submit’ any response. I’ve found that this has given my coachees a chance to reflect more deeply and then to more clearly articulate what is happening for them.”

About the Author
Sophie Oberstein is an author, coach, adjunct professor, and L&OD consultant. As the founder of Full Experience Coaching, a leadership and personal coaching practice, she works with individuals across the country who are seeking increased effectiveness and satisfaction at work, and those exploring their power to bring fulfillment and joy to their lives. She’s been actively working in the field of learning and organizational development for years at public and private organizations, including Weight Watchers North America, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the City of Redwood City, California, and Citibank, N.A. Oberstein holds a master’s degree in human resources management and postgraduate certification in training and development. Her certification as a professional co-active coach (CPCC) is from the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI). She is on the faculty of the NYU School of Professional Studies, leadership and human capital management department where she developed and conducts the fundamentals course in the learning design certificate program. Her first book, Beyond Free Coffee & Donuts: Marketing Training and Development (2003), is available from ATD Press.

About ATD and ATD Press
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is the world’s largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. ATD’s members come from more than 120 countries and work in public and private organizations in every industry sector. ATD Press publications are written by industry thought leaders and offer anyone who works with adult learners the best practices, academic theory, and guidance necessary to move the profession forward. For more information, visit https://www.td.org/books.

10 Steps to Successful Coaching, 2nd Edition
ISBN: 9781950496204 | 308 Pages | Paperback

td.org/books/10-steps-to-successful-coaching-2nd-edition
To order books from ATD Press, call 1.800.628.2783.

To schedule an interview with Ms. Oberstein, please contact Kay Hechler, ATD Press senior marketing manager, at khechler@td.org.

Q&A with Sophie Oberstein

1.    Why a second edition?
The first edition of 10 Steps to Successful Coaching was released 10 years ago. At that time, coaching was just starting to catch on in the workplace (and outside of it), but it wasn’t widely used or understood. Much of the first edition tried to “sell” the concept of coaching, and the idea that coaching wasn’t a punishment for those whose behavior was “rough around the edges” but rather an investment in the development of high performers. These days, coaching is an accepted and valued development tool that people are familiar with, and I am delighted that we are at this point.

For this edition, there was no need for a hard sell. I also thought, in re-examining the book that I didn’t talk enough about the environment in which coaching is primarily taking place—the workplace—in the first edition. Now there is a step dedicated exclusively to this broader context, and more examples from the workplace are included throughout the ten steps. I loved the first edition of the book and am even happier with the new one.

2.    Why coach?
Coaching is an extremely effective tool for developing people and for producing positive behavior change. Why? Because it aligns with almost any learning theory or learning principle you can name:

  • adult learning theory, which posits that learners bring a wealth of experience and are motivated to grow when they feel the content will help them with some aspect of their life
  • microlearning theory that suggests that learning be spaced and chunked
  • neuroscience that says that individuals learn only after trust has been established
  • behavioral theories that motivation increases as value increases
  • belief in a growth mindset that, when told growth matters and you can improve, it happens
  • constructivism, which says that learning happens as individuals construct meaning from their own experiences and environment.

Coaching checks with all these principles. And, because coaching is a just-in-time, customized approach to development, it is far more most cost-effective than more prevalent one-size-fits-all approaches to learning.

3.    Who should coach?
Anyone who supervises others should coach. As leadership author and thinker Simon Sinek suggests in his TED Talk,* “Most Leaders Don’t Even Know the Game They’re In,” once you’re a leader, your responsibility is no longer to the customer; it’s to the people who are responsible to the customer. Your people—and their success, their growth, and their engagement—are your job. Coaching is one way to fulfill your responsibility to take care of those who are responsible to your customers. Even if you aren’t supervising others directly, you can lead where you are. Leaders don’t reside at any specific organizational level. Peer coaching can be structured or informal and demonstrates your commitment to the organization and to the success of those around you. And coaching is a universal skill—and it’s for everyone. If you’re not able to coach in the workplace, you can coach at home.

*TED Talk “Most Leaders Don’t Even Know the Game They’re In”

4.    What is in it for the coach?
The personal benefits to coaching are immense. Through coaching, I’ve become a better leader, employee, and person. First off, as a coach, you must hone skills that make us all better human beings, like reflective listening, relationship-building, and being present. Connections with people become deeper as you learn to meet your client wherever they are and to respond in the moment. Then there’s what I’ve learned about being transparent, being vulnerable, and facing adversity. The wisdom that comes from my clients when they tap into their own best answers is profound and has changed my life. Then there’s the personal satisfaction of being able to help others. Coaching opens the door to people expressing and experiencing themselves in new ways, and it’s an honor to be able to contribute to that discovery. And, I’ve also had to do some learning about letting go of the illusion of control. As a coach, I can put some suggestions in to the world, and I can help guide people, but I can’t do the work for them. That’s another life lesson coaching has offered me.

5.    What are some lessons you’ve learned from coaching?
I have learned some important lessons that have helped me most significantly to grow as a coach. In one experience, I learned that I could help someone who was experiencing the same challenge that I was facing (a bad relationship with a boss) even though I hadn’t resolved the situation for myself. It turns out you don’t have to be a role model in the areas that your coachee is working on. You only have to be able to get out of your own head and help them find the answers that work for them.

Another two lessons took more than a year for me to learn. I wanted to be a certain kind of coach that I had observed in my certification program. One who came up with brilliant, insightful questions on-the-spot that turned on the proverbial light bulb over their clients’ heads right there in the interaction. I remember feeling inadequate when I couldn’t be that kind of coach with one client. I never had a response at the ready for her. I often said, “I’m really stuck here. I don’t know how to respond to what you just said,” and I wasn’t sure she was taking much from the coaching. Certainly no light bulbs were illuminating while we were talking. It wasn’t until I met up with her again a year after our coaching ended that she told me how much she had appreciated my honest and thoughtful style. That in my pauses, she had often come up with some great insight on her own. And she told me how she applied some of that insight on the job when we were working together and to that day. I learned that there is no one perfect style of coach and that, for some person, your style is just what they need. I was reminded that the work of coaching—and the rewards of coaching—don’t happen during a coaching session. If it’s working well, the magic happens between sessions. Both lessons were freeing and transformational for me.    

6.    What happens when coaching in the workplace isn’t happening?
When coaching isn’t happening, feedback isn’t being shared and people are unaware of their “blind spots.” People aren’t being held accountable. People aren’t being guided into finding the best, most innovative solutions. When I’ve worked in organizations that didn’t have coaching cultures, I’ve seen the negative results that can arise. When the first signs appeared that an employee’s performance was slipping, nobody said or did anything. These situations then turned into more troubling patterns that required last-chance conversations, which could have been avoided had a coaching conversation happened earlier. Potential is being wasted, and a closed-off culture is being created. Additionally, employees prefer workplaces where they have opportunities to develop and where they work for managers who are invested in that development.

7.    What if an organization doesn’t really support coaching?
Building a coaching culture is a long-term prospect that first requires an overall workplace culture that is trusting, supports risks, and promotes accountability. Then, you need that workplace culture to support learning and development as an asset to the organization; coaching will be just one component in this learning culture. Finally, coaching needs champions at the highest organizational levels. Building champions often starts with introducing leaders at the most senior level to coaching so that they can talk about the value they received. Talent leaders can then create a case for building coaching capacity. As examples and data from early successes with coaching circulate around the organization, momentum builds and more formal and informal coaching opportunities surface. Managers start providing “spot coaching” and employees begin to provide feedback more generously to each other. A top-down model is extremely effective, but you don’t have to wait for this trickle-down to happen before creating opportunities to do at least a little bit of coaching in your day-to-day interactions.

8.    How does remote coaching differ from in-person coaching and is it harder or less effective than in-person coaching?
I and many of the fellow coaches in my certification program used to think that coaching face-to-face was far preferable to remote coaching. After all, we thought, how can we really connect with another individual on a deeper level from afar? How can we clue in to the dynamics that are present when we are physically present with someone when we are not in the same space that they are? Our instructors told us that coaching remotely (in those days it was by phone!) could be even better than in-person coaching because when you couldn’t see the coachee, you could hear them better, and because they felt freer to share some things they wouldn’t feel as comfortable sharing in person. Studies* show that coaching long-distance is just as effective as face-to-face (Berry, et al., 2011). In recent years, when much of my coaching has been conducted remotely “live” and asynchronously, I’ve found my instructors’ thoughts to be true, and I’ve noticed a few additional benefits: Synchronous technological tools allow coach and coachee to connect from wherever they are in the world. Asynchronous opportunities allow coachees to access coaching on their own schedule, in doses that are large or small, depending on what the coachee needs in the moment, and, most importantly, give the coachee an opportunity to think through what they want to say before they submit any response. I’ve found that this has given my coachees a chance to reflect more deeply and then to more clearly articulate what is happening for them.

*Berry, R.M., Ashby, J.S., Gnilka, P.B., Matheny, K.B. (2011). A comparison of face-to-face and distance coaching practices: Coaches’ perceptions of the role of the working alliance in problem resolution. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63, 243-253.

9.    How much time does coaching require from a manager?
Adding coaching to your management tool kit doesn’t have to take up any additional time. If you are a manager, you are already meeting one-on-one with your employees. You can move the needle on the percentage of time spent in those conversations discussing the tasks at hand compared to the percentage spent focused on the employee’s development. If you are a project team member, there are action reviews happening at key milestones in the project where you can all discuss lessons learned. If you are a co-worker, you can take a walk or a grab a coffee with someone. At a basic level, all a coach needs to do is show up and be curious. All work outside of the coaching interaction itself is done by the person being coached.

10.    Is a coach supposed to have all the answers?
Your workplace coaching clients are resourceful, innovative people who are the best resources for solving their own problems. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to create buy-in for those answers you think you have. You don’t have to take ownership for the coachee’s situation. You simply need to ask the questions that remove the clutter that is hiding the answer that the coachee already has inside. Do coaches ever share advice? Sometimes. But first they want to see what ideas the coachee can come up with themselves because those are the ideas that they will most likely act upon and that work best for their unique situation.

11.    Are there really 10 steps to coach effectively?
There are a lot of coaching models out there. Some have 10 steps; some five or six. What I think really matters is that, whatever steps you use, they are based on some evidence-based beliefs about how people make behavior changes, like “people have their own best answers,” “people do what is aligned with their values” and “people develop in accountable relationships.” I think there are important things to consider at each of the 10 steps in my book that aren’t always included in other coaching models, which tend to focus exclusively on what happens during the coaching sessions themselves. Some of the steps in the book are concerned with issues like how to respond to requests for coaching, how to prepare yourself as a coach, how to do contracting, or how to integrate coaching more fully in the workplace. Bottom line? There are no definitive 10 steps and the book doesn’t have to be read—or implemented—sequentially.

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