In theory, the coach facilitates the development of a colleague by setting up learning opportunities in a series of graduated steps of increasing complexity, and provides appropriate feedback and comment after the completion of each step.

In practice, however, coaching is a much more opportunistic process.  The basic purpose is still there, but the coach must be able to react quickly to changing circumstances and be able to spot an opportunity which might match the needs of a particular colleague.  The same opportunity may never come along again, or the learning need may have changed by the time it does. 

For this opportunistic coaching style to be effective the coach must be committed to the coaching approach to performance and personal development, sufficiently committed to spend considerable time and effort getting to grips with the particular needs of each colleague.  

The coach must be able to identify and review any difficulties currently being experienced, particularly those leading to under performance.  The short and long term changes that are likely to affect the jobs of individual colleagues must also be anticipated. 

The coaching process can be represented as a series of stages through which the coach is working.  Coaching must also be recognised as but one way in which the coach can fulfil his/her responsibility for developing colleagues and enhancing performance.  The coach, having identified, in collaboration with the individual concerned, their development needs and potential, must then decide upon the general approach that is likely to be appropriate for that person.  On-the-job training, or use of distance learning packages, or combination of learning methods might be the way forward.  Assuming that the coach decides that for his/her colleagues the process of using a sequence of experiences in the normal work place is appropriate, what does he/she actually do?

Behavioral Learning

To illustrate take a tennis player who makes a bad play and his/her coach screams at him/her. The consequence is that they will tighten up and commit another miscue. If this pattern is continued over several games, bad things will happen. Initially, the coach may react only to a particular kind of miscue, such as a missed shot but the player may respond to the coach’s remark by missing their next shot. As this continues, the player can work up a psychosis about making a mistake and incurring the coach’s wrath. Result: Whenever the coach yells for any reason, the player will follow up with an error.  As the downward spiral accelerates, the player will lose their confidence, perform poorly, and force the coach to reduce his/her role on the team. 

What is true in sport is true in any walk of life – behaviour breeds behaviour – if people are recognised positively and encouraged then they respond with enthusiasm and raise their ‘game’.

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