People Management: How to Coach Employees when it’s your agenda?

How best to Coach Employees when the Manager is initiating the discussion

Employee coaching can and does take place in many circumstances.
Anytime a conversation takes place to guide behavior or build new knowledge or skills.

Coaching can be on a very informal basis, a short chat at a desk, in an office corridor, at a coffee machine. It can also happen in a more formal session.
An appraisal type discussion or performance review and to set goals for the coming year.
These are natural occasions for coaching to occur.
Coaching is quite different to offering one-way guidance.
That’s what we call Mentoring.

How best to Coach Employees?
When you are initiating the discussion.

Our suggestion is to follow these steps every time this kind of coaching discussion takes place:

Step 1: Seek to get into rapport and establish mutual trust

The foundation of coaching is the coach’s ability to establish rapport with the individual. Coaching should be a sincere and positive event with the goal of working together to deliver improvements in performance and growth.

Step 2: Opening the Discussion if Manager Initiated

Clarify, in a non-evaluative, non-accusatory way, the specific reason the discussion is taking place. Describe how a coaching-style discussion will be valuable to both parties.

Step 3: Seek Agreement on the Area of Focus (Reality)

Critical is getting the employee to agree what the main focus of the discussion will be.
Coaching should be specific to a given skill, area of knowledge or a new behavior.
It is not a general chat about many things at the same time.

The skill of specifying the issue or behavior change required consists of four parts.

  1. Give specific examples of the issue or area on which you wish to focus.
  2. Clarify what you are thinking may be possible.
  3. Ask the employee for feedback
  4. Gain agreement on the fact that a new approach could be tried.

Step 4: Explore with the employee a future Goal for the area of focus

Next, explore ways in which the employee may learn new skills or behave in a new or different way.
Avoid jumping in with your own alternatives, unless the individual can’t think of any.
Push for specifics not generalisations.
Listen for commitment words. Question words like try, might, possibly , could, should.

Step 5: Explore Options

Your goal in this step is not to choose a particular path, but to maximise the number of choices for the employee to consider and to discuss their overall benefit.

Step 6: Deal with any possible barriers and offer support

Employees may raise excuses or present barriers to doing things differently at any point during a coaching discussion.
The Manager should help them to reframe and think as laterally as necessary.
The goal here is to ensure that the employee is confident to act.
They should not be reluctant or nervous or feeling stretched beyond their capability

Step 7: Seek Commitment to Act (Will) and a Timeframe in which to do so

The next step is to help the employee choose one particular way forward.
The manager should ideally look for a verbal commitment from the employee regarding what action will be taken and when.

Step 8: Provide a final summary

The role of the manager is now helping an employee that they coach to execute well.
One way to do this is to provide a final summary on what has been agreed.
Confirm this in a email to ensure clarity for both parties on what has been committed to happen and by when. Include in here future review dates


Coaching employees is fast becoming something every leader needs to do regularly.
Coaching is not about issuing commands to people to change their ways.
Nor is it one-way guidance about what should be done differently in the future.
Coaching means having a structured discussion with an employee .
It should allow for two-way discussion and a joint decision about what should be done next.
If this is done well, employees will more rapidly learn and grow.
They will begin to make greater contributions to the organisation

Communications Skills Training: Good Conversations are not an accident

Good Communicators have to plan and work at conversations.

(We cover this in some of our Communications Skills Training Workshops for example

This is for those times when good conversations can be VERY important ..
Ask yourself “What am I trying to achieve with this conversation” before you have it.

You can if you want to “wing it”.
However if it’s an important or sensitive issue, we think that is very dangerous.
Conversations do have an ability to get off track.
If that happens what you are trying to get across can be easily misunderstood.

Developing a clear idea of what you want to achieve and how you might go about it, is the foundation of good face-to-face conversations.

Be Clear on your goal or outcome.

When you’re talking with the other person, keep coming back to it.
It helps to keep you focused on what you are trying to achieve.

Don’t let the discussion becoming one sided.
That’s when you go on and on.
Listen as well as speak. Have a conversation.
Don’t talk “at” the other person, talk “to” them.
When we don’t listen to the other person, we shut them out.
The person you are talking “at” will just switch off or “tune out”.

A good communicator will stay focused, be clear and succinct.
Check that the other person has understood what you’ve been saying.
Try asking them to summarise back what they’ve heard.

Tip: You know you’re not listening if you are spending time rehearsing what you will say next
Talking over them is another sure-fire way of limiting your ability to listen.

Putting the characteristics of effective communication into a list…
These would probably our most critical items:

For the Conversation initiator

  • Plan carefully what you want your core message to be
  • Consider the existing knowledge and interest of your intended audience/receiver
  • Work out how your message should best be tailored and delivered.
  • Be as clear, and concise as you can when you make points (don’t waffle)
  • Leave time/space for responses from the receiver
  • Listen as much or more than you talk
  • Respond to the receiver’s questions clearly and without getting side-tracked
  • Keep listening

For the conversation responder (or message receiver)

  • Listen to the full message that is being communicated
    • (both the words and between the lines)
  • Don’t look bored or uninterested
  • Don’t avoid eye contact
  • Don’t look distracted(doodling, playing with paper clips etc)
  • Demonstrate as much warmth and empathy as appropriate
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding wherever you need to
  • “Parrot-Phrase” and paraphrase to check that your understanding is on track
  • Ask the message sender to stay on track when you think the conversation is wandering.

Performance Management Training: What do Managers need to be a good coach?

What do Managers need to be a good coach?

Many companies ask their managers to coach employees.
Many managers find it difficult.

(Our Performance Management Training Workshops help)

Coaching needs a set of skills that need to be developed.
The manager has a number of hats to wear and “Coach” is only one of them.
Often they are looked upon to provide guidance, give answers, settle conflict, build team spirit, issue directives, set objectives.
These require behaviours different to those of a coach.

What are the skills that are necessary in order to be a successful business coach?
We think that a manager acting as an internal coach should be able to draw upon these

  1. This one is how we start our Coach the Coaches training .

    You need to be there.

    That can just mean being “available” when needed.

    Then you need to be there “in the room” Physically AND Mentally”.

    Not looking at your “crackberry” or listening for the ping of email messages

    Completely focused on the person to be coached

    If that is too difficult then please pass up the opportunity to coach.

  2. You need to have an ability to build rapport quickly and build trust.

    You must agree expectations for individuals at the early stages of coaching.

    You must be able to treat each individual as unique

    You need to adjust your coaching style accordingly.

  3. You need an ability to “Agree” goals and targets

    You balance between goals that are too easy and goals which are too stretching.

    Take your lead from the person being coached.

    In our experience they’ll agree a more agressive goal that you’ll set


  4. The ability to put your manager hat on for a moment to suggest areas for coaching

    Then Coach you way through

    1. What people should keep doing (positive reinforcements)
    2. What they should stop doing or lessen (which can be more negative feedback)
    3. Work with them generating new ideas that they can start doing
  5. The ability to conduct effective coaching conversations

    You need to be comfortable asking the individual being coached for ideas and suggestions.

    You then listen actively and attentively.

    Encourage individuals to think back on their experiences and discuss lessons learned.

    Debate with them implications of the experience for future behavior or action.

    Remember the answer is with the person being coached not you.


  6. An Ability to follow a structured coaching conversation.

    Using the GROW model for example.

    Working through that each time with the coachee

    Maybe after the first two or three conversations tell them the structure.

    That way they can use it themselves before they see you

  7. The ability to conclude coaching conversations positively and follow up

    You need to either summarise the conversations or get the coachee to.

    Then follow up with individuals so that all sessions build on the last and are as action oriented as possible.

    Hold the agenda for the person but they are responsible for progress.

If when you look through this list and say to yourself that you are happier providing guidance, giving answers, settling conflict, building team spirit, issuing directives, setting not agreeing objectives then perhaps you should cancel yourself off of the Coaching for Managers workshops and just get back to managing.  Or maybe you just fancy a challenge??

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: Experts or Expertise are necessary but not sufficient

Maybe you are an expert…

It could be that you’re the front person who uses the Subject Matter Expert’s expertise to develop business.
We think you both the front person and the expert to help develop more business.
For very different reasons, don’t be surprised if both of you are a little apprehensive.

If you are the expert you are not known for your selling capabilities.
You are a lawyer or maybe you’re an accountant, surveyor or management consultant.
Maybe you are a  CRM expert, architect, or an IT services consultant.
You pride yourself on your expertise. You do great client work, but selling?

Do you want the good news?

It is not that hard to improve your Business Development capability.
Relax! You can be a Rainmaker.

You just need to learn how to control your expertise.
In certain circumstances is absolutely required, however in others it will get in the way

You already know that if your customers trust you, good things happen

    • more business comes your way
    • you haggle less over the prices
    •  clients ask for you personally to name a few

High Credibility is what we most associate with subject matter experts.

The problem comes when you assume, implicitly, that what your customers want most  is a massive display of your expertise.

The Cure for Expertise

What’s needed is above all else, listening.
The listening that’s required is not listening as in being quiet, or even listening as aggressively pursuing questions.
It’s listening as a sign of respect;
Listening with no objective beyond understanding the customer.
This kind of listening is part skill, part attitude.
It requires the ability to suspend the overwhelming desire to solve problems.
It isn’t easy to do – but it is simple. It is accessible; it can be learned.

You could also try saying “I don’t know” when you don’t know.
(and sometimes when you do know.
Then promising to phone them when you get back to the office.)
I know this is very difficult for experts.
Your career has been based on avoiding such moments.

In my opinion many technical professionals will push expertise every time
– and be ineffective at business development.

That’s a great opportunity for the few firms who are capable of recognising the power of soft skills in producing hard results

(Our Business Development Training Workshops cover this and other topics)

Workshop Facilitator : Questions for you to get a NEW team working together

If you really want to be a Workshop Facilitator and
help the process of Team FORMING… then try this.

Ask every individual on the team to answer the following series of questions.

Then try to facilitate a common team view from the answers.

The test of completion is that every member of the team should be able to answer the questions as they apply to them at the end of the workshop

  1. Do we have a clear vision of what this team should achieve
    1. Short term
    2. Medium term
    3. Long term)
  2. What is my role
  3. What am I supposed to be doing?
  4. What is my goal?
  5. Who are the team’s main suppliers? (internal or eternal)
  6. Who are the team’s major customers? (internal or eternal)
  7. Who are my customers and what do they want and need of me or the team?
  8. Are processes for which the team is responsible documented and well-understood?
  9. What are the teams values?
  10. Are they well aligned with my values?
  11. Do we have the right people on the team to achieve our goals?
  12. Do we the people have the skills and knowledge to achieve our goals?
  13. Are team members multi-skilled and capable of covering for one another?
  14. Are communication channels at all levels open and well-designed?
  15. Do team members know how to ask for help when needed?
  16. What will I do if obstacles beyond my control arise
  17. Do team members listen well (to the team leader and each other)?
  18. Who determines my work/tasks priorities and how will this be done?
  19. What are the measurement systems for our goals, progress and performance?
  20. Who will help me when I need it (and how)?
  21. What happens when my efforts on this team are unsuccessful
  22. What happens if I disagree with major decisions on this team?
  23. Are team reward and recognition system well designed and executed?
  24. What will happen when I succeed at a task or project (or exceed expectations)?
  25. What are the rewards or recognition for my best efforts (and are these fair)?

Workshop Facilitation: What’s it take to be a Workshop Facilitator ?

What’s it take to be a Workshop Facilitator?

Many people have the ability to direct, instruct, lecture, and train other people in groups and one to one.
Some may even be able to coach individuals.

However that does not necessarily mean they have the ability to create a climate in which individuals can find their own way. This is one of the skills of a facilitator.

Facilitating is the process of helping participants to learn from an event or activity.
One definition of a facilitator is “one who makes things easy.”

For us it’s someone who uses their knowledge of group processes and dynamics to formulate and deliver the needed structure for any particular session or group of interactions to be effective and successful.

With your Rainmaker Workshop facilitator focused on effective processes, this allows the participants to focus on the content of their work together. A Workshop Facilitator uses techniques that help a group work together effectively and accomplish its purpose. We think that part of the art of a good facilitator is to get the group to declare that purpose at the outset.

Once the facilitator knows what is to be accomplished they then seek to assist participants

  1. Discovering what they already know
  2. Interpreting their experiences
  3. Building on their knowledge, attitudes and skills
  4. Learning how to work together
  5. Providing a structure while they remain focused on the content
  6. Speaking up so that everyone’s voice can be heard

We often say to ourselves just before we start the workshop
“It’s ok to know nothing of the content, everyone else in the room has more than enough!”.

So when you are choosing whether you need a Workshop Facilitator you probably need to think about the differences between someone who is a content expert and someone who is a facilitator.

If you need a Content Expert they will

  • Present information
  • Provide the “right” answers
  • Use primarily One-way communication
  • Will be ME or Leader-centered

Whereas a Facilitator

  • Will guide discussions
  • Provide the right questions
  • Facilitate Two-way communication
  • Will be YOU or Group-centered

In fact for some workshops you may actually need both roles…
Someone from outside , maybe an industry expert to give external trends,views and go.
Then have a facilitator to get the group to use what they have just heard and what they know.

For the Rainmaker Workshop Facilitation team …

  • The facilitator’s role is focused on the group interaction processes.
  • They know that workshop facilitation can involve many different levels of problems and challenges.
  • It can assist the group in fulfilling its overall objective.
  • It can also deliver participants to new levels of understanding.

A Rainmaker Workshop Facilitator:

  • Doesn’t evaluate
  • Focuses thier energy on achieving the task
  • Suggests methods/procedures/structures for accomplishing the task
  • Protects individuals and their ideas from attack
  • Helps to find win/win solutions
  • Gives everyone the opportunity to participate
  • Ensures that even the smallest of voices is heard

Performance Management Training: An experiment with surprising results

Performance Management Training and Practice.

The principles (work autonomy, knowing what you do matters, the importance of the first-line manager) are well documented, but they are frequently ignored in practice.

So what would happen if we could find a way of putting some of them into practice in a dedicated way?

This was the focus of an experiment carried out within the sales and service team at the Stockholm offices of the insurance company, IF, the biggest non-life insurer in the Nordic countries.

Here’s the report of their experiment

Performance Management Training: What are the benefits to the business of employee training programmes?

Building a business case for training?

When you are building the business case for employee training it can sometimes be difficult to convince management teams of the need and benefits to the business. However it’s just like any business case, we need to persuade others through demonstrating the benefits and telling them what’s in it for the business.

Here are our ideas for those of you who may have to come up with your business case.

1. What impact will training have on Business Performance?

Research suggests when Performance Management training programmes are effective, employee productivity increases.

In your business case describe what might that productivity result in.

Could it be an increase in revenues for your business.

  • More orders?
  • More Cross and Up-Selling?
  • More orders from existing customers?
  • More satisfied customers who turn into loyal customers and order more?


Could it result in cost reductions?

  • Will you able to more with less?
  • What about reductions in wasted time and materials?
  • Maintenance costs of machinery and equipment?


Will it allow you to avoid potential costs?

  •  Employment tribunals are VERY expensive in fines
  • And in time to gather documentation for lawyers


To make your case credible in the eyes of managers you should highlight areas in your business where employee performance has improved due partly to training. You may have to refer to measurements that demonstrate your business case for further investment.

We suggest you focus your business case on areas to support the business’ objectives.
This way you will steer your training plans towards the areas of greatest benefit.

2. Will training and development impact staff retention?

Training has been shown to increase staff retention.
People want to work for managers and companies who are investing in their development.
This in turn will save you money.

  • How much does it cost you to hire an individual contributor?
  •  How much for a manager?
  • Add up the cost of time spent hiring,
    • Interviewing , Managing paperwork, job ads  and agency fees

We think it’s numbered in the thousands of pounds … What do you think?

  • What’s the cost  to the business of hiring someone who does not fit?
  • Has that happened? (If so try our interviewing training and coaching)
  • Reducing recruitment costs by internal promotion of skilled staff
  • What does Absenteeism cost?
    • Would better managers reduce or deal with that?

Your business case could rightly argue that instead of paying recruitment fees, the business would be better served by investing in training. Invest in their development and the business will receive a return on that investment many times over. In some companies, training programs have reduced staff turnover by 70 per cent. Pick a more conservative number and see what the benfits are to your business. Put that in your business case.

3. Improved Customer Satisfaction, Employee Satisfaction and Productivity?

Training can increase the quality and flexibility of a businesss services by fostering:

  • Accuracy and efficiency
  • Good work safety practises
  • Great customer service.

What does your business lose if it loses a customer?
Lots of businesses work out the lifetime value of a client?
Consisting of an initial purchase , repeat purchases and annual orders.
What’s your businesses’ lifetime value figure?

4. Training to encourage new ideas and change to remain competitive

Businesses must continually change their work practises and infrastructure to stay competitive in a global market. As our economy becomes progressively service orientated, we would suggest that it is the development of people that is providing successful businesses with long-term sustainable success.

Training staff to manage the implementation of business strategies, improvements to procedures and customer service policies can also act as a benchmark for future recruitment and quality assurance practises.

As well as impacting on business profit margins, training can improve:

  • Staff morale
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Soft skills’ such as inter-staff communication
  • Leadership
  • Time management
  • Customer satisfaction.

We hope that this has given you some ideas on how to build a business case for training people.

If you’d like some ideas on how to write your business case for any Rainmaker-Coaching training then let us know.

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: #4 How to get your team involved in Business Development

Activity #4 : “We’ve Landed… How can we expand? ” 1-day workshop

This activity focuses on the fact that lots of businesses succeed at getting a new client then struggle to get more business and deliver more benefits to them.

If your team thinks that you could / should be expanding your business and number of services in your existing clients then this will work for you

These blogs will give you suggestions as to what activities might work for you.

Try these workshops with your team or with a member of the Rainmaker team to assist.
If you need us to help call us or email
(Our Business Development Training Workshops cover this and other topics)

Let us know how you get on.

Workshop 4 : Practively Managing Major Accounts

This workshop is designed to get your teams plan to succeed in your existing clients by developing more and more lines of business with them
It helps if your facilitator has had some exposure to Sales and Marketing concepts

Step 1.Where are we today in the client’s competitive landscape? 

We have the team review

  • Relationships with the client
    • Who knows who?
    • Who is who?
  • Your business with the client
    • What deals have you won?
    • What have you lost?
    • Who have you lost to?
  • Who are your key competitors?
    • SWOT them
  • They produce a SWOT for you in the client account

Step 2: We then have the team review your client’s business.
We walk a mile in their shoes

  • What are their objectives , measures, timescales etc
  • What are they trying to do this year?
  • We have them produce a SWOT for your client’s business

Step 3 : Pulling it together

  • The Team then describe something that you and your team do that delivers …
    • An ability to your client to increase their revenues
    • An ability to reduce their costs per transaction
    • Increases their employee productivity
    • Allows them to increase their customer satisfaction
    • Makes the business compliant with one or more laws of the land
  • Something that matches whatever your client is seeeking to do this year

Step 4: Agreeing your Vision , Setting goals objectives and tactics

  • The team then build a 1 year plan to move towards their vision of being a strategic partner with your client
  • The plan will be on a few powerpoint slides
  • Have actions owners measures and timescales (SMART anyone?)
  • It will also be easy to review progress or spot obstacles

If this sounds like something you could see working in your team…

If you’d like us to act as an independent facilitator and run this workshop for you

Call us or email us

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: How to get your team involved in Business Development # 6

Activity #6 : a “Take a look at our Business Development processes” 1-day workshop

This activity majors on the processes or sometimes the lack of them that develop more client business It also captures issues like who is actually responsible for that process / segment

Many services focused practices would generate more business if everyone on the team had both the skill, knowledge and motivation to proactively seek additional business opportunities.

However we find many attempts to engage teams in the business development process fall on deaf ears. Common reasons we see and hear are….

  • I don’t know how to do this
  • I’m not very good at this
  • I tried it once… It didn’t go well
  • I’m a surveyor/ engineer/lawyer/accountant and not a salesperson
  • I’m too busy / Do you want me to stop? My utilisation will drop.
  • Someone else does this don’t they? It’s Management’s job!!
  • What’s in it for me?

This series of blogs will give you a few suggestions as to what activities might work for you.

Try these on your own or with a member of the Rainmaker team to assist.
Our Business Development Training Workshops cover this and other topics )
If you need us to help call us or email Let us know how you get on.

Workshop 2 : Take a look at our Biz Dev Processes

This workshop is designed to surface all of the issues that your team feel surround the processes of Business Development in your business , in your office , in your practice, in your teams.

It helps if your facilitator has had some exposure to LEAN methods and ways to look at processes

Step 1.What are the processes today?

  • Deliver a short overview of your customers today
  • Who are the 20% that give you 80% of your business?
  • What are the growth areas you are targetting?
  • Split the group into 4 groups / 4 corners
  • We suggest you split into “Suspects” + “Prospects” + “Deals / Bids” + “Existing Clients”
  • Have the teams write down what actually happens today on Business Development
  • Have them capture the issus that they see with teh current processes

Expect to get back all the old chestnuts.
However you’ll see other obstacles you hadn’t seen.
You might also see that the team does not know what goes on at all!

Step 2: Design a New Improved Process with responsibilities

  • Ask each team to come up with new ideas and process changes for their area
  • Swap members of the teams around to x-fertilise ideas
  • Have them describe who should perform the various activities
  • How are they going to measure the new process ?
  • How will they know that their changes are successful ?

Step 3: Present the new processes and responsibilities back to the whole team

  • The processes should be easy to understand by everyone
  • They should have owners and measures (maybe a dashboard?)
  • The process measures should be reviewed openly with the people who built them.
  • Responsibilities for certain segments / clients should be assigned and measured

If this sounds like something you could see working in your team…

If you’d like us to act as an independent facilitator and run this workshop for you

Call us or email us