In “Remote? Hybrid? 7 Ways to Lead a Successful Transition,” I highlighted a few ways to support your people, teams, organizations, and companies in both remote and hybrid office models. But there is another angle on supporting and developing people: I passionately believe that one of the best ways to engage, empower, and develop people is by adopting formal coaching models within your organization.

Two lenses on adult learning

Historically, there are at least two ways that your people are thinking about education for adult learners:

You are on your own

One way to view adult learning is, of course, that “you go to school, you learn everything, and then you are released into the world; you are now responsible for the rest of your education,” as Atul Gawande said in a 2017 TED Talk.

Using this lens, while you may be able to convince your company to pay for a conference or a course now and then, the onus is on you to make learning happen much of the time.

This is a typical corporate model for existing employees outside any initial onboarding/new hire education or the annual or required training offered each year by human resources to manage corporate liabilities, which generally includes topics like preventing harassment, ethical practices, and cybersecurity.

The sports version

Another model that folks may be familiar with, according to Gawande, is “the sports version [which advocates] ... you are never going to learn, unless you have a coach along the way.”

This is the lens I encourage learning leadership to adopt.

Does the coaching model work in corporate settings?

You may wonder, “While this model works for sports and other activities, would it work for my company, client, or team?

Executive coach Monte Wyatt cites statistics that show that there is a return on both value and investment when applied correctly. Wyatt’s research shows that the likelihood that individual performance will improve with coaching is 86%, compared with a result of 22% with training alone.

Wyatt claims that companies realize an average return of $7.90 for every $1 invested—or about 5.7 times the cost of the coaching.

Coaching appeals to adult learners, too. Tom Casano cites an ICF survey that found that 80% of people who had received coaching felt more self-confident and 72% improved their communication skills.

Getting started with coaching: Shadowing programs

Coaching is making its way into corporate learning toolboxes. And, on average, less than 20% of the average manager’s time is spent on coaching and 69% of managers do no coaching at all, according to Julie Dunn at LevelEleven.

This may be because:

  • Managers have never been coached themselves
  • Managers do not know how to coach
  • Managers lack the time to coach—or perceive a lack of time
  • The organization has no formal coaching process or expectation that managers will coach employees
  • Managers lack the soft skills, patience, and listening skills needed to coach effectively
  • Managers may be unaware of the benefits of coaching

Learning leadership can change this, though it might take some work. One place to start is a pilot a shadowing program. This can help you gain buy-in with key executives prior to implementing a coaching program.

Shadowing, or spending time with someone 1:1, is a great way to learn and then apply what you learned. The person being shadowed should act as a performance coach, helping the person shadowing them to learn a new skill. The person being shadowed might also process the new person’s strengths and weaknesses and escalate red or yellow flags to management.

Since much learning is social, shadowing models facilitate a much quicker transition of skills at a higher quality with less risk when compared with classroom-only models.

Reverse shadowing is also a great way to learn what is challenging people and where the real issues are in a process, practice, team, or organization.

Reverse shadowing is basically a Lean or Kaizen concept where senior leaders or members of an organization take time away from their regular routine to go and see what is happening in their organization. They literally spend a day “on the floor,” in real-time, with a key member of the junior staff to learn processes, investigate issues, build relationships, and creatively problem-solve with the people doing the work—and involve those people in finding solutions.

This is something that should become routine for senior leaders, including learning leaders.

Making it stick

Coaching can help the entire team get better—and that helps your organization get better.

As a learning professional, you are in a great spot to promote models that encourage leaders to be teachers and coaches first and leaders or managers second. You can take the lead in showing how teaching and coaching are key foundations that ensure good leadership and management.

Connect with Learning Leadership peers

Are you seeking the strategies and skills required to navigate the needs of today’s ever-changing workplace? Are you an experienced or aspiring leader looking for a community to connect with to explore today’s biggest learning leadership challenges?

The Learning Leaders Alliance is a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve and for aspiring leaders wanting to build their skillsets. The Learning Guild’s Alliance Membership package includes access to exclusive digital events and content curated for today’s modern learning leader, as well as opportunities to attend in-person learning leadership events held around the globe. See the details here.