Research has shown that people perform at higher levels when they are coached as opposed to “managed”. So, you might be asking, what is coaching, in a nutshell? What are some of the tools I can use as a leader? How, specifically, do I have a “coaching” conversation?
Coaching is about inspiring and empowering others through meaningful conversations and effective questioning. It trusts that people possess the wisdom they need to discover and realize their own potential. Coaching meets a certain need for many people: it’s a forum for objective conversation and full exploration. It’s a rare opportunity for an individual to focus solely on him or herself for a full hour on a regular basis. It’s a conversation different from what you would have with colleagues, family, or friends. It’s a place to get support when counselling isn’t really the answer. It’s for people who are already doing well in many areas, but are seeking renewed opportunities for growth.
Coaching is both a science and an art. It’s about the combination of theory, practice, and interpersonal finesse. There are some good coach training programs that address these components in depth – which one article on the topic could never hope to duplicate.
There are, nonetheless, some coaching concepts of which to be aware: some ‘nuts and bolts’ that you can begin to incorporate into your own style of conversation and leadership. These, in my humble opinion, are the essentials:
Most importantly, you need to engage the interchange from a place of genuine curiosity: asking questions (and more questions) without anticipating or providing the answers, and listening carefully without assuming or rehearsing. It’s not about your interpretations; it’s about the coachee finding his or her own answers as you ask the questions that foster the search.
This is often easier said than done, but it’s a skill to be refined.
The other components of a typical coaching conversation, on top of active listening and purposeful questioning, include supporting and acknowledging, making requests, and providing the structure of accountability (the coachee is ultimately accountable only to himself, of course, but tends to stay in action when he knows that he will be reporting back to you on his successes).
These components in action might look something like this – a basic six-step coaching model:
1. Setting the stage:
Why are we having this conversation? What brought you here? What are our respective roles?
2. Formulating and focusing the issues:
What’s going on? What specifically do you want to change or accomplish?
3. Asking questions for further clarification and deeper exploration:
What does that really mean? What area(s) do you want to work on first? What is important about this to you?
4. Developing goals through solution-focused questions:lag screw hole size
What will it look like when it’s how you want it to be? What exactly will you be thinking/feeling/doing when you reach your desired state?
5. Developing an action plan (making requests and offering feedback if appropriate):
What do you need to do to make this happen? What strengths do you need to draw on, and what supports will you need? What is the first step? How will you know that you’re moving toward your goal? Can I ask you to experiment with… ?
6. Following up (the process begins again):
What went well last week, and why? Congratulations! How can you do more of that? Where did you get stuck? Why? What do you most want to focus on now What do you most need to do to keep moving forward?
The important thing to remember throughout the process is that the relationship is key, and that you don’t need to have the answers. Getting caught up in doing it the ‘right way’ and worrying too much about the questions you ask will only impede the process. These concerns quickly become non-issues as you develop trust and rapport, and when you truly approach the conversation with genuine interest, concern, and selflessness.