Sometimes, teaching another person is the best way to improve a skill yourself. Managers looking to retain or enhance their technical expertise can use teaching and coaching as a way to stay on top of their own skills.
Plus, a manager’s role in professional development is to help team members discover their skills and passions, and then connect them to the resources they need to develop further. Managers who actively enable and coach their team members help keep their team performing well, and help cultivate a growth mindset at their organization.
As such, the manager-as-coach role is an important one at every organization.
But having a particular skill doesn’t necessarily make it easy to teach that skill. In fact, often it’s the opposite. Sometimes, the more skilled we are at something, the harder it is to remember what it felt like to learn it, and therefore the harder it is to transfer that knowledge to someone else.
When teaching any new skill or sharing information, many of us tend to fall back on the tried and true “lecture” style. We call a team member over to our desk and say, “Hey, here’s how you do this thing. Watch as I do it. Any questions? No? Great.”
The problem is, that team member is probably going to go back to their desk and forget what you just told them, because they haven’t had the chance to apply or internalize that knowledge.
Not everyone is an auditory learner. Many of us learn by doing, or reading, or watching others. Managers must take these divergent learning styles into account as they set to teaching their team new skills.
Have a look through the examples below, and try the ones that suit the person you’re coaching best:
Seven common coaching methods
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- Lecture: Also known as exposition, this is when you teach through explanation. You’ll rarely use lectures in career development, because it’s hard to make information stick using this method. If you do use this coaching method, try to use storytelling to make the information stickier and more compelling.
- Guided discovery: Think of this like the Socratic method. You guide people to a conclusion by asking them a series of carefully selected questions. This is the coaching method you’ll likely use the most when you’re working on career development, as it invites employees to create and explore their own journey. Rather than telling someone how to do something, you first ask them how they would do it, and then ask follow-up questions until they develop a deep understanding of the topic.
- Structure: Structured learning is when you provide a framework or tool that helps the individual acquire the skill. For example, “SMART” goals is a structure for goal-setting. It’s an acronym that people can apply and use whenever they’re setting goals for themselves or others.
- Teach Someone Else: One of the best ways to acquire a skill is to teach it to someone else. If a team member is trying to acquire skills for their career, ask them to become a coach to someone else on the team in that area.
- Exploration: This is the “figure it out as you go” approach — one that favors trial and error over follow a prescribed path. If a team member is trying to learn a new skill, this method would ask them to try to simply dive into the deep end and figure it out on their own, asking for guidance only as needed.
- Mirror: The do-as-I-do method. This is the lead-by-example method of the coaching world, and involves showing someone how to build a skill by asking them to mimic your actions or behaviors, or those of someone else.
- Problem-solving: With the problem-solving method, you assign a task or problem for the individual to solve. By solving that specific task, they build up the necessary skills to move onto the next one. You can gamify this by making it so they can only unlock the next problem once they’ve solved the existing one.
You’ll likely use some combination of these methods in order to help your team members reach their goals and gain new skills. You may use guided discovery, structure, and mirroring altogether in order to convey a specific lesson. Don’t worry about memorizing them. Simply refer to them anytime you need to teach a new skill to a team member.
Another important thing to remember when coaching is to tie skill development to the real-world. No matter what coaching method you use, there should always be a portion where they apply that skill.
Studies show that adults tend to learn better if they have an concept of the purpose of learning that skill.