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Coaching 101: a guide for communicators

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Coaching 101: a guide for communicators

Being a communicator can be pretty awesome. We get to wear many hats whether it’s writer, event planner, technology guru (where budgets allow of course), confidant, mediator, strategist…the list goes on. And now we’re adding another one: coach.

Imparting wisdom to other human beings can be scary. But if our role continues to evolve from that of creator to curator, we need to be open to sharing our breadth of experience with others around our organisations.

There are lots of courses and qualifications out there if you want to become a professional coach. But what we’re talking about here is the basics we can all hone to share the skills and knowledge we already have.

And that’s really key; we already have the skills and knowledge. Coaching is obviously beneficial to the person receiving it, but it’s also a good exercise for the coach to take stock and realise just how much they do know about their chosen profession. So here are our top coaching tips to get you started…

Listen

Don’t just hear what people say. Really listen. That means not coming into a conversation with your mind made up, and not thinking about what you’re going to say next while the other person is still talking. Yes, you have lots of experience and certain things worked for you, but it’s important to properly listen to the challenges the other person is facing.

Use your experience to inform your response, not to be the response.

Recognise everyone is different

There will be some people that just want to be able to bounce ideas off you, such as “what do you think about doing a flash mob to launch a campaign”, or “can you look at my comms plan to check I’ve covered all the relevant audiences”. Others however will need you to hold their hand at every step. While we don’t recommend your full time job becomes coaching one employee, it’s about recognising they’re that type of person, and you need to start by helping them build their confidence. Encourage them to give things a go and provide constructive feedback. Which leads us nicely on to…

Feedback

We all know that feedback, whether about a person, project event etc, is invaluable to help us improve. But how many of us actually take the time to reflect and ask others for their honest opinions? It’s the same with coaching, it’s very easy to get caught up in giving advice and not checking in to see how it actually worked out. And sometimes the advice you give won’t work. And that’s ok, it’s understanding why that’s important.

Honesty and trust

Ultimately few people benefit from hearing what they want to hear as opposed to what they need to hear. As a coach it’s your job to bring a different perspective and deliver honest feedback. And it’s also about being honest with yourself. You don’t have to have all the answers – recognise when you need to bring in other people with skills and experience you don’t have. It’s the mentee that’s important, not your ego.

An honest relationship will lead to a trustworthy relationship.

The most successful partnerships are based on trust and whoever you are coaching needs to believe that you have their best interests at heart.

Embrace failure

One of the main ways you get experience is through failure and learning from it. Encourage people to embrace failure and to be bold and try new things. And if it doesn’t work out, take time to understand why and do it differently next time.

Empathy

It may seem obvious, but to be a coach you need to like the person you’re coaching, want the best for them and be able to empathise with the situation they’re in and they type of person they are. While to you posting a blog is second nature, for someone else posting their thoughts in a public arena is a terrifying concept. Adapt your approach accordingly.

Put jealousy aside

The ideal outcome when coaching someone is that they improve. The trick is to not see their success as a threat to your own, but a compliment to your coaching skills. It’s human nature to feel stabs of jealousy from time to time, but as a coach you need to be comfortable with helping others take the spotlight and shine.

It’s now time to take your coaching hat and put some of this advice into practice. Remember coaching someone whether as part of a mentoring scheme or on an ad hoc basis as part of your comms role is not only rewarding, but a privilege. It can also be a lot of fun, so what are you waiting for?

By Helen Deverell for Alive

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“So glad that we chose Alive to create our new website. As well as taking the time to get the visual side of our requirement right, they worked with us to understand us, our business and our clients and reflect this across the site. We loved their flexible approach, which, coupled with the right level of challenge has replaced our old, clunky site with one we can be proud of. ”

Victoria Ford — Perago

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Love it. I will pass to the boss, but I think it's awesome.”

Matt Fletcher — Met Police

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“Boom!
Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“I have worked with Alive with Ideas for many years now and they are by far the best Ideas and design company I have ever worked with (I’d even go as far as to say the best company of any sort that I’ve ever worked with). They are an incredibly talented and creative team, who are normal human beings, completely grounded, totally down to earth, approachable, friendly and an overall joy to work with.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist — StephTranter.com

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q