A guest blog by Luke Thomas of Spring for Octopus HR.


“You’ll undermine and embarrass me in front of my team”

“I need time to reflect and practice this more first”

“Today isn’t a typical day and this just isn’t natural with you being here!”

“You don’t understand my role”

These are some typical objections to field and onsite ‘live’ coaching.  All of them important to explore and overcome, if you’re going to land effective and valuable results.  What I’m talking about here is time in the office coaching someone, not in a meeting room away from the action.  Rather… Sat at their desk with them.  Side by side in their car during offsite visits.  Having quick pre-briefs in corridors and text-coaching during telecoms.  Joining client, stakeholder or team meetings as a 3rd party observer and coach.

It’s takes some bravery to commission development that involves truly ‘live’ coaching interventions.  If all you want is incremental change – then don’t bother, it’s not worth the effort.  However if you’re looking for stretch or step-change, then buckle up – it’s well worth the investment as the returns are so different to traditional training and development.  You get to hold up a mirror in a completely new way when it comes to self-awareness.  People witness behavioural change unfold before their very eyes.  It’s real, not simulated.  This week alone I’ve experienced the following KPI shifts:

In retail:  Average Transaction Value (ATV) rise from £22.83 to £29.45 in 3 hours and sustain for the full week to deliver a new sales record

In a head office:  A group of 12 managers, save a total of 233 working hours per month between them that they could divert into more strategic activity

In a 1:1 Exec session:  Two people who’d previously locked horns and argue to the point of relationship meltdown, instead, negotiate a new way of working and end up having a good laugh together

In a sales team:  Make up a year to date shortfall of £15m in 7 weeks since some ‘live’ coaching and a new goals tool

Another simple tool is BREATHER™ (see attached download free of charge) that can be applied before, during and after interactions to drive highly effective preparation, delivery and review of performance.  BREATHER™ by the way, is pretty straightforward to use and gets the brain to engage different areas/types of thinking, that in turn impact behaviours.  Feel free to contact me for more advice on getting the best from it.

Taking a programmatic approach will also strengthen the change process.  Workshops to introduce new materials and methodologies, should be interspersed with 1:1, paired or trio coaching in-field or onsite to bring things alive.  The mixture of offline workshops to think and reflect, coupled with coaching on-the-job provide a strong combination of blended learning.

Here are 6 Top Tips for landing high impact ‘live’ coaching:

  1. Rapport is everything.  The coach must put the time into this above all else.  It provides the leverage, trust and permission space for the coach to really intervene.  Once you’ve got strong rapport, the fun can begin!
  2. Contracting is key.  “What do you need from me?…. Here’s what I need from you.”  Get clear on the deal you’re agreeing in terms of a) how you’ll land the coaching together so they feel confident and supported.  b) any specific sensitivities such as confidentiality, feedback or line manager involvement.  (You don’t want them being suspicious of covert surveillance / assessment)
  3. Not for the faint-hearted.  As the coach you need to be sufficiently brave and committed to force the application of new skills, behaviours and thinking.  Note first tip though – rapport comes first.  The whole point here is to experiment, practise and play around with new stuff to see what works quickly and what needs more honing.  You take them off their habitual beaten track into virgin territory, helping them feel safe and supported as you do.
  4. Hold up the mirror.  Do this is in a highly factual way.  “I noticed this…. I heard you say that… I saw you do this…”  Save the opinion or feedback until you’ve got the buy-in and credibility established; even then, hold it back at first.  You’ll also find that by providing super high quality observation first, the coachee will be more responsive.
  5. “That’s the way it’s done around here.”  Whilst a mindset like this can be negative groupthink, in this context you DO want everyone to start realising that co-coaching and in-the-moment development is cultural, and to be expected.  The more you can reinforce it the better.
  6. Hang in there.  Kotze, in his book on Performance, talks about people changing when they “See the light or feel the heat.”  Field and onsite coaching are both vehicles for bringing about one or both of these.  Paradoxically there is the need for patience and impatience.  It’s a judgement call as to whether you experiment with them self-discovering or increase the heat by applying more pressure or challenge.  The rule of thumb I’d say is to keep on changing something until you get the desired outcome.