Having been in the Leadership Development field for the past twenty five years, I have seen and experienced a common recurring practice. This practice is embedding coaching with live face-to-face and/or virtual training workshops. Many of my clients are making more of an investment in coaching, not only for those at senior levels, but for first line leaders as well. Many are also making investments in various train-the-trainer-approaches than in previous years. I am also noticing there are several ways in which this can be done.
One way is to embed coaching prior to the learning event (either face-to-face or virtual). This is typically the most common approach. Another is to offer post-workshop coaching. Others embed coaching similar to the bread in a club sandwich - coaching, training, coaching, training, and coaching. Coaching can be one-on-one or in small group coaching sessions. It can be structured or less structured. One client uses coaches ‘on the floor’ and has the coach follow the leader around in the store providing real time feedback. Talk about on-the-job training! Regardless of the structure or format, it’s best to have the coaching reinforce the key learning objectives and intent to enforce sustainable change.
So some of you might be saying to yourselves, “This is nothing new. I have heard this all before.” Others might be asking, “Why is this so important now?” In the adult learning field, we all realize the significance of ongoing support in one’s environment to sustain behavioral change. We all realize the importance of having leadership support for learning initiatives ranging from senior level to one’s immediate manager. We have always known this, or have we?
There could be several reasons for the heightened awareness of linking coaching to some key strategic leadership and training initiatives. One is the continuing trend of learning and development departments that must demonstrate value – value of the learning and development function, value for learning and development teams, value for their product and service offerings, value for their impact, and value for their client’s investment in time and money.
Another reason is that offering coaching is a visible way of showing your organization’s investment in its leaders. The Millennials demand coaching and immediate feedback. Furthermore, coaching helps us be agile. In today’s lightning fast world in which we live, we are all exposed to more – more information, more customer reviews, more feedback, ultimately more choices. The internet and social media sites have inundated us all. Many customer facing organizations have been making substantial investments in enhancing their customer experience strategy and training in support of those strategic initiatives. Combine the fact that today’s organizational leaders must be able to motivate, engage, and develop their staff to reach their high levels of performance. Coaching is one of the most powerful tools that a leader can utilize at his/her disposal to achieve long lasting results.
One of my TrainingPros clients, which is a large global car rental agency hired TrainingPros to help support their corporate strategic customer service initiatives through instructor-led training. For over three years, TrainingPros facilitators have partnered with their corporate and airport locations to lead face-to- face training to equip their managers and associates with the principles and behaviors that create an exceptional customer experience. We have always held an ‘intake meeting’ where the purpose is to engage the facilitator with the specifics of each location and get to know the management team. Last year, we were also asked to facilitate virtual training sessions to supplement the existing face-to-face training. This year, our role was expanded into coaching before and after the workshops. This was due, in part, after realizing small measurable customer satisfaction gains after the training. Expanding the various ways in which the customer and management training is delivered, delivering the critical messages several times, and ensuring that management is supporting the ongoing mindset and behavior change are all parts of our client’s training department’s mission.
According to Todd Bouldin, who is one of the facilitators associated with the car rental project, “while there are some potential coaching challenges in that one-on-one or huddle coaching requires more bandwidth, coaching also requires more time and financial investments than simply offering a few training classes.” Many of TrainingPros clients are realizing that it is an investment that they are willing to make as they prepare their employees and leaders for the future. Investing in coaching as well as training to achieve a higher return is an investment they see as worthwhile. Being agile in our learning and development practices helps us be agile in today’s changing world.
We welcome your thoughts and comments on this subject and are happy to talk with you and your team about integrating coaching opportunities into your existing course curriculum.