Learning & Development

Coaching as Critical Reinforcement to Self-Directed Learning

Melissa Pollock

ICMI Featured Contributor Article.

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Coaching promotes a form of active learning that is not entirely instructive, nor entirely directive, nor entirely introspective, but includes aspects of all three, albeit at different times and in different proportions.  No wonder a lot of front line managers struggle with leading effective coaching! 


Contact Center coaching is usually focused on improving performance but is often too directive; coaches are typically promoted from within and know how to do the job themselves, but haven't had any or much coaching training or practice, so the fastest course correction is simply explaining what to do and how to do it.  This 'telling' approach fails to generate any self-awareness, reinforce any learning, or create any relational equity for the coach.  


The 'telling' approach also fails to generate performance results.  Being told the right thing to do or the right way to do a thing is not enough to create in someone the will, or the behavioral skill, to repeat what they were told.  If it did, no one would ever need anything beyond initial training - no practice, refresher, or coaching would be necessary!  


One of the primary principles of Adult Learning as identified by Malcolm Knowles, is that we learn best when we have the opportunity to explore and experience information for ourselves and at our own pace.  Some of this self-directed learning occurs naturally on the job as we perform and make mistakes.  Self-directed learning journeys can now also be promoted through use of AI technologies that push knowledge resources and micro-learnings directly to employees for instant use.  


Consider the CSR who is missing their NPS goal because they're not connecting with customers; they sound impersonal and un-involved.  Now imagine that CSR is automatically sent a series of short multi-media micro-learning content, each focused on single, very specific behaviors, such as vocal warmth and sincerity, then concluding with a knowledge check.  The learning journey is short enough that it can be informally consumed, and precise enough to be immediately useful. 


Enter the front-line leader who then leads a coaching conversation about ‘connecting with customers using vocal warmth and sincerity’, using the same best practices content, and suddenly coaching becomes a powerful reinforcement for the employee’s learning journey. 


The potential for modifying behavior and affecting performance and engagement through coaching is most significant and successful when it is relevant to, and therefore reinforces, formal and informal learning.  For front-line leaders to effectively reinforce learning with coaching, they first have to be aware of this relationship, then lead coaching conversations that allow employees to reflect and build on effective behaviors.  Only when learning and coaching are aligned and reinforce one another, can we successfully accelerate individual growth and drive performance. 


AmplifAI Solutions, Inc. helps contact centers transform performance outcomes through AI-based self-learning, predictive coaching, and crowd-sourced best practices. For more details on employee self-learning journeys and coaching effectiveness, send us an email.

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