Winning Coaches Meet Their Employees Where They Think

manager’s job involves getting work done through others, which is why one of a manager’s most important roles is to support employees in their development. Even those who don’t have people management responsibilities are often called on, either by the organization or by an individual, to serve as a mentor to someone who is growing in their role.

Helping people expand and apply their skills, find fit and meaning in the work, and continually develop in their careers is essential if you want to consistently attract, engage and retain the talent that will lead the organization into the future. Particularly in today’s work-more economy, the stakes have never been higher.How coaching impacts training

Companies are demanding more from employees, and employees are increasingly taking on more, working longer hours and being asked to stretch outside their comfort zones to meet new expectations and requirements. With the pressure heating up, it’s becoming that much more of a struggle to stay focused, productive and positive. Companies are investing heavily in corporate training to help employees meet today’s new demands, but we know that training alone isn’t sufficient.

In fact, the Center for Management and Organizational Effectiveness found that training combined with coaching leads to an 88% increase in productivity versus 23% from training alone. Here, too, managers play a key role in making sure what’s learned in training is actually remembered, reinforced and applied back on the job. But while most managers agree that employee development is integral to their jobs, most employees don’t think they’re doing such a great job at it.

According to CEB research, only 45% of employees feel their managers are effective coaches. As a recent Harvard Business Review article put it, you can’t be a great manager if you’re not a good coach. The question is, what does it take for a manager to be a good coach? And how can we help managers and employees alike quickly connect, create an open line of communication and cut through the noise to turn coaching into an ongoing part of everyday business?

Business coaching is about helping people gain new perspective, see past their blind spots and move forward developmentally. But before they can move forward, the coach has to create the environment for transformation, and the coachee has to understand who they are.


The best place to start is with the personal operating system that drives it all, the brain. When you understand how people think and learn, you can make faster connections and cut through the noise so you can spend your time where it counts.

That’s why the most effective coaches start the process with an understanding of their own thinking and learning preferences as well as those of the person they’ll be coaching. From there they can find a shared comfort zone of language, setting the stage for open communications and mutual trust so both parties will really hear each other. And rather than viewing the issue through their own mental filters, the coach will be able to focus in on how the employee works best and what fuels their inner motivation.

Thinking can also become the springboard for discussions with employees about how they can use their preferences more deliberately, and stretch to other styles to meet specific competency requirements and developmental goals. By understanding how the person thinks and processes information, the coach will have key insights into what aspects of a job will present the most challenge, what performance tools and job aids will be most effective, and where the employee will need to focus their energy and attention to reach their goals.

Regardless of your thinking preferences, all aspects are important, which is why the most successful coaches have the thinking agility to move beyond their own comfort zones and filters. It’s not about being a chameleon or changing who you are; it’s about adapting and being flexible to meet your employees where they think.

The Whole Brain® Approach to Coaching and Mentoring

Whether you’re coaching or mentoring one-on-one or working with a team, with a Whole Brain® approach you’ll be able to:

  • Take a more strategic approach to coaching, based on what we know about thinking and the brain, so everyone is able to spend their time most effectively.
  • Structure your approach in a way that best meets the needs of each person.
  • Communicate more effectively to build rapport, trust, agreement and commitment.
  • Help people find the right fit and set themselves up for success in their careers.
  • Be more efficient and effective with those who think the same as you do and those who think differently.

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