Positioning Managers to Coach After Training

Training alone has value. But training plus a manager working hand-in-hand with the Training department to provide coaching will develop and retain top talent.

Coaching is all the rage. There is nothing more powerful for a person’s development thanworking with his or her direct manager on his or her talent and career development. While coaching has gained in popularity, the execution is still inconsistent. The question arises: Why?

Managers often object to coaching due to a lack of time. In theory,this can be true for some, but I think most people would agree we’re all busy. With that being said, there are two main reasons managers do not coach: 

  1. They don’t know how.
  2. They don’t know what to say. 

Both elements present a huge challenge for many managers because we’reasking them to adopt a new language. It’s easier to just tell people what to do versus asking questions. Questions allow us to navigate conversations of understanding employee strengths and provide insights to opportunities to improve and the methods to do so. There is a huge opportunity here, and Training departments that embark on positioning managers to coach will bring even greater value to their overall training.

Why Is Coaching Needed After Training?

First, we need to understand why coaching after training is such a powerful element. 

1. Probably the most vital aspect, is the element of reinforcement. When people attend training such as online learning courses, workshops, or seminars, people immediately come back to the workplace and go back to their tactical duties associated with their job. The challenge is that the learning and material provided will dissipate, especially within the 14 days after the event. Managers who ask questions about the training, as well as facilitate activities that coincide with the training, will accelerate an employee’s development exponentially. 

2. Managers who coach after the training is someone who is not only developing their employees but themselves, as well. 

3. Training has never been the problem, whereas application and reinforcement of virtually any type of training is an incredible opportunity to solidify knowledge and skills. For example, an employee who just attended a course on negotiation certainly requires practice and application.

Conversation Model

Thereare critical steps we must take the position managers to coach successfully. First, they must be trained in a conversation model. A conversation model has simple steps to follow, with imperatives within those steps. At Progress Coaching, we teach the following four-stepcoaching conversation model:

  1. Learning project
  2. Discussion
  3. Activity
  4. Learning project

This four-stepprocess initially looks simple in nature, but it requires practice to truly adhere to and execute the process. Going back to our example, a manager could simply implement a coaching progression using the four-stepmodel specific to become a better negotiator. A learning project is something that is done in between the coaching sessions but draws upon the employees’ real world. For example,a learning project could be as simple as: “Come back next week with two examples of where you successfully negotiated, and maybe one where you felt like you missed the mark and why.”

Very simple, but this provides visibility into what’s going on in the employee’s real world, as well as provides the manager witha perspective of what’s being applied. At the start of the coaching session, the manager will ask about the learning project and immediately gravitate into a discussion phase where coaching questions are used. Questions build clarification and understanding, as well as the trustof the employee. The activity is facilitated to impart change.

Going back to our example of negotiation, this requires knowledge. For example, the employee could teach back the steps of negotiating, as well as demonstrate skills in simulations and practice sessions. At the end of each coaching session, the manager (the coach) will apply another learning project (typically the same one to maintain focus and consistency) such as: “Come in next week with two examples of where you successfully negotiated and one where you felt like you missed the mark and why.” This process feeds on itself and helps maintain a focus on an important area.

Coaching Maps

The second strategy to position managers to coach successfully is to use something called coachingmaps. A coaching map is a two- to three-pagedocument that coincides with the conversation model but actually provides the exact questions, activities, and learning projects specific to a training topic. Training departments that provide such tools to their managers position them to successfully coach employees and continue the talent development process.

Supplemental Coaching Methods

A third strategy is to teach and illustrate supplemental coaching methods. A supplemental coaching method is designed to reinforce not only training, but also the manager coaching an employee in a one-on-one endeavor. Supplemental coaching strategies do not take any in-persontime on the part of the manager. A combination of one-on-one and supplemental coaching accelerates an employee’s development. Going back to the exampleof negotiation, here are some brief examples of how to use a few supplemental coaching strategies:

Self-directed learning: This could include reading a book on negotiation or an article to ultimately prompt the employee to share what he or she learned and successfully applied.

Journal based coaching: Journaling prompts the person being coachedto write down successes and opportunities to improve specific to an area he or she is trying to improve, such as negotiating. When people bring other senses into play such as writing and reading, it reinforces other learning methods.

Observational coaching: One of the healthiest things we can do is to use peers. Ask an employee to observe another employee who is performing well and have the employee write down what he or she observed in terms of what the other employee does well and what the first employee learned about him or herself that he or she is committed to improving as a result of the observation.

Managers who coach build greater trust. For far too long there’s been an element of insanity when it comes to training: Managers say they don’t have time to coach, but at the end of the year, they say their employees need more training. The fact is, training alone has value. But training plus a manager working hand-in-hand with the Training department to provide coaching will develop and retain top talent.

Tim Hagen is Chief Coaching Officer of Progress Coaching, which teaches organizations how to implement coaching to drive business results. For more than 20 years, Hagen has been a national expert on helping organizations implement coaching for talent development and retention. He can be reached at tim@progresscoachingleader.com or 262.377.5655

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