One of the roles of a good leader is to coach those who follow you. This happens in obvious ways, like in a sport or with a tutor. It also occurs in the workplace.

If you’re a coach, you’re always on the lookout for tools to improve your team and help them perform as a happier, more productive unit. Some of these tools are classic coaching activities, like building confidence and praising achievements.

There are also new coaching solutions powered by things like data and technology. Here are a few thoughts on some of the most innovative ways you can take your employee coaching to the next level.

Use Data to Identify Issues, Set Goals, and Evaluate Results

Data is a powerful way to analyze business activity. Most of us are used to seeing data applied to cold, calculated areas of business — like meeting a sales quota or improving revenue to a certain percentage point.

However, you can also use data to improve your coaching through performance analytics. That is the activity of measuring a company’s KPIs (key performance indicators) to discover what is working …and what isn’t.

Michael Mueller, head of Performance Science and Growth at the performance analytics platform Two Story, explains the power of this unique application of data in business, “By studying performance analytics, decision-makers can identify areas that need to be improved and monitor the impact of their actions.” Mueller goes on to explain that companies can apply performance analytics in a descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive manner, depending on the circumstances.

Performance analytics can have a dramatic impact on coaching. It enables you to analyze your coaching goals and then assess how well you are or are not achieving them.

For example, consider when you onboard a new sales rep. You might have a goal to coach them for the first three months to ensure that they’re fully up to date on your products, clientele, and internal elements, like your CRM (customer relationship management) software.

At the end of the three months, you have to decide if you’ve achieved that goal. When you’re on your own, this ends up being an educated guess. By using performance analytics, you can specifically measure your employee’s grasp of their new sales knowledge compared to your coaching goals. You can use the same approach for customer service, marketing, and any area where you’re coaching an employee with the goal of improving their performance.

Use Tech to Keep Communication Lines Open

Coaching is an involved and often prolonged process. You can’t just decide you’re going to mentor an employee, give them an occasional piece of advice or point of feedback, and call it a day.

Coaching Focus Group defines four distinct phases that the coaching process tends to take, starting with a preparatory phase followed by setting goals and expectations (called the “contracting” phase) and the actual coaching (which is structured and can go on for weeks and even months at a time).

The last phase is an evaluation period. This involves analyzing the results of the coaching experience and deciding if it needs to end, continue, or adjust. As outlined above, all of these phases can benefit from the application of performance analytics to compare KPIs to outcomes.

Another element that can make or break your coaching efforts is the process of requesting and receiving feedback. If you want your coaching to remain effective over time, as a coach, you need to actively seek out feedback from your coachees.

The ability to practice active listening creates a feedback loop that can help you improve your own abilities as a coach. The good news is that there is a plethora of tech tools that can make this possible, one of which is surveys.

Snack Nation points out that a well-crafted employee survey can provide several communications-based benefits. For instance, it can highlight opportunities for improvement, gauge employee satisfaction, and show that you care about how the coaching process impacts those that you coach. Technology has also made surveys accessible and easy to use.

Becoming a Better Coach

Coaching is equal parts art and science. Unfortunately, a lot of coaches focus on the art part of the equation and leave the data and calculations out of the mix.

From performance analytics to healthy communication, if you want to take your coaching to the next level this year, look for the tech and data tools to help you along the way.