- How Coaching Boosts Employee Engagement and Productivity
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May 28, 2024

When I started my digital agency, Imulus, over 15 years ago, I realized that our most valuable asset wasn't our products or our processes—it was our people. And keeping them engaged and productive was a whole new ballgame. Late in the game, I discovered the power of coaching. At first, I was skeptical. I mean, I'd hired intelligent, capable people; why did they need a coach? Turns outeven the best players can benefit from some guidance and supportfor example, Tom Brady. Over the years, implementing a coaching culture transformed not just individual performance, but our entire team dynamic.

Take a company like Google, for example. They're consistently ranked as one of the best places to work, and a big part of that is their focus on trust and psychological safety. They have a team of trained coaches who work with employees at all levels to help them grow and develop. It's not just about hitting targets, it's about creating an environment where people feel supported and encouraged to do their best work.

That's the kind of culture I strive to create with my coaching clients. Whether it's a startup looking to scale or an established company looking to innovate, the principles are the same. Here's what I've learned:

Trust Is the Foundation

One of the first things I assess when working with a new team is their level of trust. As Patrick Lencioni so brilliantly outlines in his book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," without trust, you can't have healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, or results. It's the foundation everything else is built on.

I remember working with this one team where there was a palpable tension in the room. People were guarded, defensive, and unwilling to speak up. By using some trust-building exercises and creating a safe space for open dialogue, we were able to break down those walls. It was like watching a flower bloom, suddenly, people were sharing ideas, challenging each other respectfully, and working together like never before.

Understand Individual Wiring

Every person on your team is wired differently. They have unique personalities, communication styles, and motivators. Trying to manage them all the same way is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, it just doesn't work.

That's where assessments like DiSC and 12 Driving Forces by TTI come in. These tools give you a blueprint of each team member's natural tendencies and what drives them. Armed with that knowledge, you can tailor your coaching approach to resonate with each individual.

I once worked with a sales team that was struggling to hit their numbers. Using the DiSC assessment, we discovered that the majority of the team were high S's (steadiness) and C's (conscientiousness). They thrived on stability and process, but their manager was a high D (dominance) who was always pushing for change and risk-taking. By coaching the manager on how to adapt his style and create more structure, the team's performance skyrocketed.

Coach the Whole Person

True engagement and productivity come from tapping into people's intrinsic motivation. It's not just about what they do at work; it's about who they are and what they want out of life. As a coach, my job is to help people connect their day-to-day tasks with their bigger purpose.

I remember one employee who was seriously disengaged. She was smart and capable but just going through the motions. Through our coaching sessions, we discovered that she had a passion for mentoring others. By finding opportunities for her to take on more of a leadership role and share her knowledge, her engagement level shot up. She went from being a passive participant to an active driver of team success.

Make It Safe to Fail

Failure is inevitable. The key is to make it safe for your team to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Coaching can create that psychological safety by reframing failure as an opportunity for growth.

I once worked with a team that was launching a new product. They were so afraid of messing up that they were paralyzed by indecision. Through coaching, we normalized the idea that not everything would go perfectly and that was okay. We celebrated small failures as learning moments and made course corrections quickly. By taking the pressure off perfection, the team could innovate and iterate their way to a successful launch.

Focus on Strengths 

So often in business, we focus on fixing weaknesses. But research shows that the greatest gains come from doubling down on strengths. Coaching can help identify and cultivate each team member's unique superpowers.

I remember one employee who was really struggling in his role. His manager kept trying to shore up his weaknesses, but it was just forced and didn't work. Through strengths-based coaching, we discovered that he had a real knack for data analysis. By shifting his role to play to that strength, his happiness and satisfaction went way up!

Maximizing employee engagement and productivity isn't about having the perfect team; it's about encouraging the team you have to be their best selves. Coaching is a powerful tool for removing the limits on their potential. It's not a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all solution. It takes time, trust, and a willingness to dive deep. But the payoff is immense. When your team is firing on all cylinders, there's no limit.

Just look at companies like Apple, Southwest Airlines, or Zappos. They've made coaching and employee development a core part of their culture, and it shows in their results. They consistently outperform their competitors and are magnets for top talent.

So, if you're looking to take your team to the next level, consider investing in coaching. It's not just about boosting the bottom line—it's about creating a culture where people can thrive.

author avatar
George Morris
I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world. I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.