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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

The Role of Coaching in Learning and Development


The role of Coaching in L&D

Ever wished you had a guiding light to illuminate your career path, a personal trainer for your professional development, or a master chef whispering the secret ingredients to that perfect career recipe? That's exactly what coaching can offer! Whether you're an L&D beginner seeking to grasp the concept of coaching or a professional eyeing a transition into this field, this post will serve as your compass. So, buckle up as we embark on this enlightening journey of discovery and empowerment. Your coaching expedition starts here!



What is coaching?

Let’s start at the beginning by figuring out what coaching is. Imagine that you are learning to cook. You have your recipe book, kitchen utensils, and ingredients. But, you're not quite sure how to combine these things to create that perfect dish. Now, imagine having a master chef with you in your kitchen. This chef doesn't cook for you but guides you, asks you the right questions, challenges you, and encourages you. That's your coach.

Coaching, in a professional sense, is like having a personal trainer for your career. This person doesn't do your job for you but guides you and motivates you. They help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, set personal and professional goals, and develop strategies to achieve them. They're like a flashlight, shining light on the path ahead and helping you navigate through your journey.

In essence, coaching is about empowerment. It's NOT about telling you what to do, but helping you discover your own potential, building your skills, boosting your confidence, and guiding you towards your own solutions.



Differences between coaching and traditional learning methods

If you’re not familiar with the difference between coaching and more traditional learning methods, like training or mentoring, you can easily confuse the two. But there is a huge difference.

Let’s see where each of these would be appropriate, using an example. Meet Joey, a new Learning and Development Admin who just joined the company.

Training

Training is like the onboarding courses Joey has to take – they explain what the company does, what the company culture is like, and what the values are. Joey’s manager introduces her to the rest of the team and explains what the expectations from her role are. Training is usually structured, task-oriented, and focused on imparting specific skills or knowledge.

Mentoring

Now onto mentoring. Imagine Joey moved past her beginner’s lessons and she is getting pretty good at her job, but she dreams of continuing her L&D career journey. That’s when she approaches one of the senior L&D specialists and asks them to be her mentor. This seasoned professional has been through it all – the ups, the downs, the trainings and workshops, the presentations and reports, the stakeholders, you name it. This person takes Joey under their wing, shares their experience, gives advice, and guides her on her journey. This is a true mentor. Mentoring is relational and usually long-term. It focuses on the professional and personal growth of a person.

Coaching

Finally, let’s take a look at coaching. Our L&D Admin has seized an opportunity to jump into the role of a Learning and Development Partner – she has worked hard to make this happen, and is getting pretty good at it too. But at some point, she hit a wall – a challenge she hasn’t faced before and is not sure how to proceed. Along comes the coach. This person may not know how to solve Joey’s problem or, in fact, have any experience in L&D at all. But they are skilled at asking the right questions, sparking insights, and helping our new L&D Partner unlock her full potential within. The coach helps Joey identify where she’s struggling, set goals, and create an action plan to overcome her challenge. Unlike training and mentoring, coaching is less about teaching or advising and more about facilitating self-discovery and self-improvement.



Types of coaching in L&D

In a business setting, we can look at three types of coaching: performance, management and executive.

Let's imagine a business as a play, with different roles and scenes that all contribute to the overall performance.

Performance Coaching

Performance Coaching is like the acting coach for the individual actors in the play. These coaches help the actors nail their lines, perfect their delivery, and enhance their individual performances. They focus on specific behaviors or skills that need improvement - maybe one actor needs to work on their comedic timing, another on their dramatic intensity. Performance coaches work at this individual level, helping each employee improve their specific role and performance within the company.

Management Coaching

Management Coaching, then, is like the director of the play. The director doesn't just look at individual performances but how all the actors work together as a cast. They help shape the interactions between the characters, guide the overall flow of the scenes, and create the best ensemble performance. Similarly, management coaching focuses on improving the abilities of managers and leaders. They work on skills like communication, delegation, and team-building. They help managers effectively guide their teams, foster a positive work environment, and ultimately, orchestrate a successful performance from their team as a whole.

Executive Coaching

Finally, Executive Coaching is like the producer of the play. The producer looks at the big picture - the overall production. They consider things like the vision for the play, the resources available, the audience reception, and the long-term sustainability of the play. In a similar vein, executive coaching is for the top-tier leaders in an organization - the CEOs, the presidents, the board members. It focuses on high-level strategic thinking, decision-making, leadership style, and managing organizational change. They help the executives navigate the complex business landscape, manage the company's resources effectively, and drive the organization toward its strategic goals.

So in a real business world scenario, a salesperson might work with a performance coach to improve their sales technique, a sales manager might work with a management coach to better lead and motivate their sales team, and the CEO might work with an executive coach to develop a new company-wide sales strategy.



How to use coaching in L&D

I’m going to assume that after reading all of the above, you’re convinced that coaching is something you want to use in your organization. The next logical question is how to do it and when it is appropriate. Let’s review some used cases:

Coaching as a standalone practice

Coaching can be a standalone practice in and of itself. L&D can step into the role of a coach for an individual employee and help them figure out their goals, strengths, and blind spots, and create an action plan to get where they want to go.

Personal development plans

Coaching can be a powerful tool when an employee wants to create a personal development plan. Regardless if it’s done by L&D or their line manager, the coaching conversation can be a game-changer: it helps the person map their own journey, uncover their potential and work on their areas for improvement in their own way.

Management and Leadership development

A common occurrence is to integrate coaching into management or leadership programs. It helps bring theory into managers’ everyday life, hone existing or emerging leaders' skills, boost decision-making, and enhance their ability to motivate and guide their teams in the best possible way.

Career development

When it comes to career development, coaching can be instrumental. A coach can provide guidance and support in setting career goals, identifying the necessary skills and experience for career progression, and exploring different career paths based on the individual's interests and abilities.

Performance management

Coaching plays a critical role in performance management. It assists employees who might be struggling, offering tailored feedback and strategies to enhance their skills, boost their productivity, and improve their overall job performance.

Wellness and resilience programs

Coaching is vital in wellness and resilience programs. Here, a coach can aid individuals in understanding and managing their stress, developing coping strategies, promoting healthy habits, and building resilience to navigate through challenging times effectively.



Conclusion

Used in the right way, coaching can be a powerful, transformative tool that can play a significant role in Learning and Development. Just as a master chef guides a novice cook or a flashlight illuminates the path ahead in the dark, a coach can guide people on their professional journey, highlighting strengths, identifying blind spots, and empowering them to find their own solutions.

The beauty of coaching lies in its flexibility and adaptability to various contexts and individuals. It's not about having all the answers but about asking the right questions. And that's where the real power of coaching lies - in unlocking the potential within each of us, empowering us to reach our goals and become the best versions of ourselves. Remember, the journey of growth and development is ongoing, and coaching can be your compass, lighting your path every step of the way.

Happy coaching!


L&D Consultation with Irina Ketkin, Coaching for L&D, Learning and Development


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