It is extremely important for managers to pursue self-improvement. As the saying goes: a fish starts rotting from the head. Unfortunately, managerial culture in Estonia is not at a level we can be satisfied with. We have many companies where money and financial results are managed but where the people are not. Actually, instead of money and results, it’s people who should be managed. If so, the good results will not be long in coming.
One of the possible tools for developing managers is coaching. Much is said about coaching in Estonia, but no doubt quite a number of people are still at a loss to explain the difference between a coach, mentor and leadership trainer. A coach is not a trainer who dictates the right way to do things. Nor is the coach a taskmaster who keeps goading the coachee to get things done at the right time.
Who is a coach and what’s coaching?
A coach is an inspiring, creative and specially trained conversation partner. Coaching is a tool for developing human resources. It’s a method that helps people to find and unleash their inner potential and the coach as an outside observer is a supporter of people in this process. Actually, people frequently have a sense of what the obstacles are, such as things standing in the way of achieving goals at work, but they may not be completely cognizant of all of them to the point where they can start taking action. Coaches have their own techniques to help people notice solutions – after all, we know that sometimes seem clearer to outside observers than people who are in the thick of things.
Sometimes when a person talks to themselves out loud, others will say – look, he or she is talking to someone wiser. In a certain sense, coaching is this kind of talking to oneself, asking yourself questions and seeking answers to them – but a person is not alone. The coach is beside them, listening to them and reflecting back what they hear. The main tool for a coach is communication – they have to be a good listener, ask the right questions and reflect and recap.
When to seek out a coach?
A need might arise when a person gets a new role in an organisation – for example, when a specialist becomes a manager. It’s lonely at the top, it’s said. That is why executives also seek out coaching. They don’t have anyone in the organisation to discuss things with frankly – the supervisory board expects ready solutions, nor can you let on in front of subordinates that an idea isn’t ripe yet. A coach helps the manager or executive put important topics into words, analyse them and guide people to a point where they see possible solutions.
The most important thing, however, is that the person should have the motivation and the will to be engaged in their self-development. If an organisation buys coaching for its managers for half a year, but the managers themselves aren’t interested in it, it’s simply time and money wasted. People take responsibility themselves and taking responsibility starts by wanting something – if a person doesn’t want to grow, set goals and make progress toward them, there’s no use in a coach. A coach is not a taskmaster who checks whether a person has done their homework.
What happens in the coaching process?
The first task is to find a qualified coach who is right for you. Estonia has people who call themselves “coaches” but who have not actually received relevant training. To find a professional, accredited coach, I recommend visiting the website of the International Coach Federation (ICF) Estonia. Another important factor is chemistry: is there a good fit between the coach and coachee? Often the selection may depend on the stereotypical preferences in our subconscious – will we trust a female coach who is on the younger side or want to seek out a male coach with life experience when it comes to self-growth topics?
Interpersonal fit will become apparent at the first meeting where coaches introduce their coaching models and past experience. The coachees for their part will say what they expect from coaching and it will also become evident whether coaching is the method that is suited to their needs in the first place.
If everything’s a go, the coach and coachee will contract on work methods, schedule of sessions, (usually coaching relationship lasts half a year), confidentiality aspects and goals. There’s no cause for concern if the coachee can’t precisely describe all key topics and goals as soon as they walk in the door – the coach will help separate grain from chaff and articulate the most important topics. You could also talk about how you and the coach will know once you have reached the goal. But it’s certain that success in managing other people starts from managing yourself better.