You may think that “high-performance coaching” means coaching for high performers – in other words, people who, for whatever reason, have been identified as “star talent.”
Actually, high-performance coaching is about helping all people reach their full potential, in any area of their lives. For the manager as coach, this means working with people to improve their performance at work.
High-performance coaching may also involve working with other people within your organization – collaborating with other managers and leaders to make the workplace a high-performance organization, one that helps everybody to perform at their best.
The approaches and techniques used in high-performance coaching borrow heavily from the worlds of sport and the military – areas where optimal performance is key.
High-performance coaching conversations usually start with finding out people’s “starting points” – their visions or life ambitions. Then, it moves on to explore the directions in which people need to move to achieve those visions, and the steps they need to take now to do so.
When to Use High-Performance Coaching
How often do we think we know what we want to achieve, only to discover that gaps in willpower and self-discipline hold us back?
High-performance coaching helps people explore their motivation, and overcome the blockers that hold them back. It’s about both support and challenge. It’s particularly useful for the following:
- Long-range career or life planning – While some people may prefer not to have a “life plan,” there’s robust evidence that shows that people who have clear plans and goals are more likely to be successful in the long term.
- Navigating career change points – An example of a career change point could be the transition from being primarily seen as a manager to being seen as a leader – someone who offers clear guidance and genuine inspiration. Coaching can help people navigate these change points more successfully.
- Making fundamental changes to performance or behavior – This involves the equivalent of athletes breaking bad habits in their game, and relearning basic skills the right way.
- Handling major life setbacks – High-performance coaching can help people recover from major business or personal setbacks. In particular, it can help people address work-life imbalances, or deal with major episodes of stress or burnout.
Note: As our article What is Coaching? coaching typically works best when the coachee (person being coached) sets the agenda, and is prompted by the coach to develop their own solutions. However, you may find that you need to take a more direct approach with high-performance coaching.
High-Performance Coaching Skills and Tools
Here is a useful checklist of things that you should do when helping others to be their best:
- Be respectful of the coachee as an individual.
- Be respectful of the coachee’s skills and goals in life.
- Be honest in providing constructive and challenging feedback, and set high goals that the coachee is likely to achieve.
- Be aware of your own ego and agenda, so that these don’t get in the coachee’s way.
- Be comfortable with a variety of tools that help you explore the coachee’s perspective. Examples include the GROW Model, the Flow Model, and a simple formula drawn from one of the most valuable books in coaching, “The Inner Game of Tennis” by W. Timothy Gallwey. The formula is:
Performance = Potential – Interference
We’ll look at this formula, and the Flow Model, in more detail below.
The Flow Model
The Flow Model was introduced by positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his 1990 book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”
This model shows the emotional state that we’re likely to experience when trying to complete a task, depending on the perceived difficulty of the challenge, and our perceptions of our skill levels.
Part of the job of the high-performance coach is to help coachees acquire and be confident with the skills they need to achieve their goals. The coach then helps the coachee match these skills to the task at hand, setting “stretch goals” – goals that are challenging, but which are possible to achieve.