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Coaching for best results

By Margo Herman

What is coaching? The variety of contexts and definitions people have for it is surprising. Coaching has surfaced in a surprising number of conversations in the past few weeks:

A colleague shared how she sees coaching as guiding employees on performance plans for poor performance.

I recently coached colleagues toward high-quality youth programming by using the Discovery Process, following a YPQA observation at a 4-H youth camp.

This week, at a county fair judging event, I coached a staff member on the Youth Program Quality Assessment "YPQA on a Stick" tool.

We are planning a professional development session for the Collaborative Leadership Fellows cohort next month in Rochester for fellows to learn how to coach and be coached for personal growth and goal setting.

A program conference planning team that I am on is considering including a coaching workshop under the theme "balancing professional and personal life."

The following definitions of coaching from the International Coach Federation provide a sense of how and why coaching can be a helpful practice for ourselves and with youth, colleagues and employees.
  • "Coaching is a highly personalized learning process designed to bring about effective action, performance improvement and/or personal growth for the individual"
  • "Coaching builds the client's awareness and responsibility and provides the client with structure, support and feedback"
John Whitmore unfolds some essential skills in his book Coaching For Performance, including: active listening, asking effective questions, and reflecting back to the client. He also proposes a model called GROW. This model suggests developing a sequence of questions focused on the following four stages:
  • Goal setting for the session as well as short and long term
  • Reality checking to explore the current situation
  • Options and alternative strategies or courses of action
  • What is to be done, When, by Whom, and the Will to do it
When it comes to coaching, what works? To me, whether formal or informal, with colleagues, youth or employees, the essence lies in clients building awareness, taking responsibility for learning, and nurturing self belief. Coaching requires a refinement of skills to achieve good results.

What do you think? Which of these skills or perspectives do you most successful in your environment? Can you share any favorite resources for effective coaching?

Margo Herman, Extension educator, educational design & development

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  1. This one of my primary roles in department leadership with youth workers. I strongly believe that formal coaching has a trickle down effect. If staff believe more in themselves and their abilities and know that there are people backing them who believe in them, that they have their own answers and that reflection and collaboration are key to finding those answers, they are more likely to develop those same types of relationships with their staff, volunteers and youth.
    In coaching staff, I am modeling an approach I want them to use with others; one that sets high expectations, holds people accountable, but also recognizes that people are almost always doing the best they can in any given situation, and that coaching can often help them come to realizations that help them do better the next time.

  2. Great post, Margo. Coaching is an extraordinarily powerful tool at all stages of development. For me, coaching puts the coachee in the driver's seat, allowing them to have the "aha" moments that helps inspire personal change and growth. In addition to active listening, the ability to ask thought-provoking questions that challenge the coachee to critically analyze their thoughts or actions has been very effective for me. Thanks again for starting this discussion. Great stuff!

  3. Eric, your leadership role is important, supporting staff to do the best they can, and better next time. Your approach fits so well with positive youth development, and program quality, encourages youth to use reflection and find their own answers. Adults and youth both benefit equally in learning these skills. You are a role model for both groups. Congrats on your coaching focus and influence!
    Catherine, you are a master at asking powerful questions, and promoting reflection to lead to personal growth. Our Collaborative Leadership Fellows cohort has taken your skills to heart to explore personal and leadership goals. It is a personal goal of mine to become more refined in recognizing, shaping, and posing those powerful questions. There is great personal and professional satisfaction in knowing when we hit the mark with these skills.
    Coaching skills enhance my work with youth and with adults. I am finding the YPQA pyramid and the coaching observations a very tangible way to hone in on coaching and reflection.

  4. Thank you Margo for your thought provoking post. I recently completed my first coaching sessions around quality youth development with judges of 4-H exhibit judging. The coaching conversations were very rewarding. I think the judges' were able to see what a powerful role they play in the lives of youth and felt valued for the skills that they bring to the conference judging table. As we talked about their strengths that contributed to the positive experience for the exhibitor, both developed a comfort level and were able to ask questions about areas that they didn't feel as comfortable with. I strongly feel with the right approach the coaching process can be very rewarding experience. Thank you Margo, for helping us to frame the opportunities for coaching!

  5. Coaching at county fairs is such a unique and positive experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts,Carrie! I also found this kindmof coaching a strong affirmation that positive youth development happens in so many places. Enhancing the one-on-one feedback 4-H youth receive as a result of coaching the judges feels so tangible. We hope to expand this coaching to many counties throughout MN once we refine the process. I have one more county fair scheduled to provide this coaching and I look forward to the opportunity!