What is Performance Coaching? A Simple Guide.

By Upskill Coach, On Sep 22nd 2020

Did you know that there's no universally agreed-upon definition of what is performance coaching?

Did you know that there’s no universally agreed-upon definition of what is performance coaching?

And yet, there are some fundamental truths about performance coaching that are common to each description.

In this post, we’ll answer the question ‘what is performance coaching?’, so it’s easier to understand. We also describe some of the scenarios that we most commonly see when it comes to coaching for performance. Along the way, we cover all the basics that you need to know – including what it is, where you can find it, and who it’s for. This primer is a great place to start if you’ve ever wondered about performance coaching and are hungry for more information!

What is performance coaching?

Perhaps one of our favourite descriptions of performance coaching comes from the author Tim Gallwey. He wrote the book The Inner Game about how an athlete’s mental focus can boost performance in sports. He later applied those principles to the workplace and business and leadership.

He describes coaching this way: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

And that’s the big revelation that we want to share with you about performance coaching, whether it be for sports, business, academics or some other field: it’s a learning process! Performance coaching is a series of techniques aiming to bring about continuous improvement in an individual. It’s a feedback mechanism between two parties, a coach and a student, whereby the process of learning and development is fostered through detailed feedback. In business, performance coaching is often related to the 5 performance objectives.

That learning process can happen in two ways. Sometimes it’s an external process where the learning is specifically requested, and sometimes it happens organically in the course of our everyday lives.

Professional performance coaching. This is an external process whereby a hired coach works with a motivated learner to help them excel and identify intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. They will often start with performance profiling to highlight the areas to work on. Suppose you enlist the help of a coach for a professional scenario. In that case, they can help you understand what it takes to get from a middle-management position to a senior executive level, for example. They’ll guide you toward what skills and training that are required for you to land your dream job!

Everyday performance coaching. The second type of performance coaching happens in varying degrees nearly every day at the workplace. After all, we all coach – whether it be to ourselves or a teammate or colleague. It happens every time you offer up some constructive advice to someone that you share a relationship with (and vice-versa).

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Let’s look at some examples:

When you enlist the help of a certified career coach to help you achieve new heights in your professional life, that’s a type of performance coaching. You work with a contracted professional who helps you set and achieve meaningful goals.
When an Executive Director addresses an employee and gives her some advice about improving her sales tactics on the job, it’s an example of everyday performance coaching.
When a mentor provides some fresh advice to a dear friend about improving networking skills to land a dream job, it’s another example of everyday performance coaching.

Are you starting to see the differences? Performance coaching isn’t merely a sub-genre of a contracted coaching program whereby a coach and mentee work to reach the “top”. In reality, it’s a full-blown leadership skill and continuous improvement exercise that’s essential to improve your business-related competencies.

Is performance coaching right for you?

Since performance coaching is a type of continuous improvement activity, it doesn’t just apply to a professional setting. Performance coaching can also benefit you if you work in an academic setting or a self-employed setting.

Here are some common scenarios where performance coaching might be used:

Students. Whether it be at the undergraduate or graduate level, performance coaching happens when an instructor shares advice on your academic paper or when you enlist the help of a tutor to improve your study habits.

Entrepreneurs and self-employed. Self-made individuals can benefit from performance coaching through the help of a business coach. If you’re an entrepreneur, a professional coach can help you elevate your business knowledge and guide you on your journey of growing your business.

Career starters. If you just began your career, performance coaching can be an integral part of the process toward becoming a full-fledged professional. Hopefully, you’ll benefit from sound advice and guidance from trusted managers or mentors early in your career. To make sure you get the best advice possible, consider enlisting the help of outside help by working with a professional coach.

Middle management and senior leaders. Perhaps the most typical scenario for performance coaching is hiring a third-party executive coach to improve the leadership abilities and performance of individuals and teams within a company.

How to improve your performance coaching abilities

By now, we hope you’re starting to see the answer to our the question we started out with: ‘what is performance coaching?’. It’s big, broad and can apply to many situations. And we think that’s a good thing. It means that no matter where you are on your career path or what your current professional circumstance is, there’s a method to achieve your goals if you’re eager to learn and develop as a person.

If you’re interested in learning about what performance coaching is or working with a coach to improve your own performance, here are some things you can do:

Research an accredited training program near you. With the help of online virtual technology, you can learn these critical business and leadership skills in a format and at a cost that works for you.

Work with a coach. Through virtual platforms, it’s easier than ever to find a coach that’s a good match for you!

Self-coach. Practice makes perfect! An awareness of the importance of performance coaching already puts you ahead of many of your peers.

To improve your performance coaching abilities, try practising some of the essential tricks in your everyday work:
Strengthen the belief of your colleagues. Motivate your teammates or direct reports by providing them with adequate challenges and guiding their projects.

Provide great feedback. Not just any old feedback will do – “looks fine” simply won’t cut it! The more specific, the better. Let your team members know what they’re doing well and what they can do better to meet expectations.

Recognise quality work. A little appreciation can go a long way. By thanking and recognising your employees, they’ll feel more accomplished.
Capture impact. Boost productivity by capturing results rather than activities or attitudes. The tangible impact can help promote constructive feedback and encourage better performance.

Listen. It’s simple, but trust us, it works! An open ear is something that even the most senior leaders lack because it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. Listen to your colleagues and show your interest by asking open-ended questions and being empathetic to their projects or concerns

Coaching in your everyday life

Hopefully we’ve now given you an answer to the question: ‘what is performance coaching?’. Whether you want to apply it to sports, business or even your personal life, awareness about this essential continuous improvement activity can lay an excellent foundation for your success.

If you’re ever overwhelmed or feeling insecure about a task or project, remember that performance coaching is just a few conversations away. It can be an essential friend for you during stressful times. By understanding the development needs of yourself and those around you, it’s easy to upgrade skills and gain diverse experiences for your unique career path.

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