Preparing yourself mentally for coaching is about coming to a shared understanding with your boss and your peers on what ‘good’ coaching looks like. This is the first of two short articles on the concepts of good coaching. It is based on the pre-reading assignment I set for leaders attending my Coaching Master Class training.
Coaching is orientated towards achieving business goals by helping others understand and achieve the objectives of their role. The focus is on present contribution and future potential. Coaching for Performance is about unlocking the potential of teams and direct reports and motivating them towards high positive expectations regarding their performance goals. This means adopting an inquisitive non-directive approach, asking purposeful questions, listening, challenging perceptions and giving feedback. It involves the Coach focusing the Coachee on:
- What – the process steps they will take to produce their goals;
- How – the strategies they will adopt to achieve their goals;
- Actions – the knowledge, skills and experience they will use to deliver their goals.
We use tools in coaching. This implies there are skills to learn, and to practice and improve upon. In the ‘Coaching Master Class Workshop’ and the ‘Coach Supported Self Study Module’ we introduce the first set of tools: Purposeful Questions; Levels of Listening; Challenging Perceptions; Feedback in Coaching. Additional tools and templates are offered during Refresher Workshops and the online Coaches Toolkit.
Discipline & Structure
The Leadership Coach needs to be disciplined in WHAT to coach on and WHEN to coach. ‘What’ means the Coach taking a proactive approach to selecting coaching subjects that directly relate to the Coachee’s personal goals AND the organisation’s goals or Must Win Battles. ‘When’ means contracting a series of sessions against a specific business and development goal, including booking time in both the Coach and the Coachee’s calendars. It also means scheduling coaching as part of the monthly one-to-one sessions. In addition, the Coach needs to take the initiative on short ad-hoc coaching sessions and respond to coaching on-demand (‘Laser Coaching’ or ‘Coaching on the Go’).
The Leadership Coach needs to take a structured approach to ensure they are effective and efficient in their coaching sessions. For this we adopt the universal coaching GROW model. This model helps the Coach navigate a successful coaching session by providing a simple model of four progressive steps towards a positive outcome.
Goal – Agree specific short term objectives for the session with the Coachee and their longer term aims for the coaching subject. The Coach determines overall performance goals. The Coachee states their personal goals. Frame as positive SMART statements set in the future. Validate and contract with the Coachee.
Reality – Complete an accelerated exploration of the Coachee’s reality landscape – wide ranging and deep probing. Explore laterally and from different perspectives. Drill down to a deeper consciousness. Invite the Coachee to self-assess. Where appropriate, use feedback with examples. The ‘thinking’ stays with the Coachee.
Options – Create and explore a full range of options. Brainstorm – go for quantity. Unlock the Coachee’s creative and ambitious thinking. Avoid negative assumptions. Encourage productivity. Enhance the Coachee’s esteem. Ensure choices are made.
Way-forward – Facilitate the Coachee deciding their own way forward and ensure they take responsibility for actions and outcomes. Convert discussions into decisions. Check for obstacles. Offer support. Encourage specifics: What, When, Who & Will. Test Coachee confidence. The ‘doing’ stays with the Coachee.
Coaching is about leaders adopting a particular style or mind-set in all aspects of their leadership communication. On one hand Coaching represents a series of events or sessions conducted with direct reports. On the other hand it is a general approach to leadership communication. The challenge for the new Coach is to move from a Telling style of management to an Asking, or Coaching style of leadership. Telling means presenting information, delivering answers and pacifying the direct report. Coaching means guiding the conversation, asking questions and activating the direct report. Coaching is a leadership style which requires you to adopt an inquisitive non-directive approach; this means it is empowering versus controlling. Coaching provides valuable payoffs for both the Coach and the Coachee. For the Coach, coaching can release time to focus on other leadership issues, develop a stronger and more loyal team and be very personally satisfying. Once mastered, a coaching approach will extend to other aspects of the Coach’s life – business and personal.
So is coaching an art or a science? Here’s what John Whitmore says in his book ‘Coaching for Performance’:
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them learn rather than teaching them. It may be harder to give up instructing than it is to learn to coach.”
“To get the best out of people, we have to believe the best is in there somewhere. Ordinary people like you and I will do extraordinary things when we have to”.
“We must see people in terms of their future potential, not their past performance. People normally only manifest 40% or less of their potential in the workplace. The single universal internal block to realising potential is the same thing described many ways: fear of failure, lack of confidence, self-doubt and lack of self-belief. Building others self-belief demands we release our desire to control them. Self-belief is built when they (Coachees) make decisions, take actions and recognise their full responsibility for both”.