Coaching Employees - 3 February 2009
When she was just under two years old, Helen Keller contracted an illness that left her both deaf and blind. The subsequent difficult years were characterised by Helen’s frequent screaming, smashing of dishes, and temper tantrums. Many people thought she was a monster that should be placed in a mental asylum where her terrorising behaviour wouldn’t affect them.
At the age of six, Helen’s desperate parents sought the help of various professionals, one of whom referred them to a lady by the name of Anne Sullivan. Even though she had no experience working with deaf-blind people, Anne said yes to the opportunity of being Helen’s coach.
The first word Anne taught Helen was “doll” by spelling it out with her finger on Helen’s hand while Helen held a doll in the other. Even though Helen could repeat these finger movements, she wasn’t sure what they meant. One day, as Anne poured water on Helen’s hand while writing the word “water” on the other, Helen finally understood. Over the next few hours she excitedly learned the spelling of thirty new words.
From this point on, Helen’s progress was amazing. Her tantrums stopped, and eventually she could understand what someone was saying just by touching their lips or their throat. She even went on to graduate from university, wrote many books, and toured the world.
In this example of coaching at its best, the lessons for you as a coaching manager are:
- The intention behind your coaching is more important than the coaching itself. Anne left home to go and live with Helen, dedicating herself to Helen’s development. At work, how much do you genuinely want employees to achieve their potential?
- The way you deliver coaching has a greater impact than the content you impart. Coaching is 90% attitude and only 10% process-driven. Anne’s attitude consisted of persistence and love. What attitude do you bring to your coaching sessions?
- Your compassion determines whether employees embrace coaching or reject it. Anne lost most of her eyesight when she was five so she related and empathised with Helen. How well do you know what your employees are going through?
Anne achieved remarkable results with Helen despite lacking a distinct advantage that you already possess: the ability to ask your employees thought-provoking questions. The true hallmark of a coach is in the questions you ask, not the statements you make.
To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click