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 second 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.
The Coaching relationship is like no other relationship because of its combination of objective detachment on one hand, and commitment to the goals of the Coachee on the other. In what other circumstances would you find someone so committed to listen to you with such attention, intention to understand you and commitment to move you towards action? What should be most important to the Coach during conversations is the Coachee; his/her success, happiness and ultimate fulfilment. This requires a style of relationship manifested in conversations which are non-directive. The relationship is now ‘collaborative’ which means both Coach and Coachee are working together on creating change. As a collaborative Coach you do not ‘fix’ someone (have you ever heard “I’ll coach that out of them”?), solve problems for them or assume a position of superiority or higher knowledge. It requires the ‘traditional manager’ to adopt a fundamentally different approach to his/her direct reports. This is about a relationship based on equality – adult to adult. But is this ‘new’ approach only for Coaching, or can it be applied over a range of leadership situations? Good Coaching takes time. It sometimes involves ‘taking the long route’. Many managers are firefighting, or in the daily ‘whirlwind’, and don’t believe they have the time.
Coaching cannot thrive in a blame culture. Blame introduces defensiveness which reduces awareness. The first element of Coaching is raising the Coachee’s awareness. “I am able to control only that of which I am aware. That of which I am unaware controls me. Therefore awareness empowers me” (John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance). Awareness is knowing what is happening around you (the “R” for Reality from GROW). Self-awareness is knowing how you are experiencing that and how you feel about it. Focus on what the Coachee thinks, their opinions, their perspectives on past experiences and their expectations (and concerns) for the future. So the mind is key – but what is the key to the mind?
The outcomes of Coaching are self-belief, self-motivation, choice, commitment, awareness and responsibility. Tough things to measure in a conventional way. The Coach’s most common tools are still questioning, listening, challenging, feedback, observation and reflection. It’s not rocket science – just practice what you learn and overlay new experiences from the Coaching Master Class.
Consider your ‘Intention’ as a belief principle within the GROW model. For example: your intention to connect (build rapport); your intention to know (raise awareness); your intention to change (create responsibility); your intention to motivate (prompt confidence and positive self-expectations). A good Coach can be defined by the principles they operate from as much as what they do, or how accomplished they are in using the tools & techniques. In Leadership Pipeline terms this would be described as your ‘Work Values’.
Coaching is about creatively combining tools, techniques and perspectives in an authentic way to address the Coachee’s specific challenges and opportunities. The aim is to help them to discover new perspectives, make choices and implement actions. Coaching is driven by the belief – or Work Value – that the role of a Leadership Coach is to execute business strategies by delivering results through others.
Trust & Rapport
Why is trust so important in Coaching? Think of a high-trust and a low-trust relationship. What is different? High-trust relationships develop based on observable behaviours like reliability, openness, the ability to empathise, credibility, acting consistently and following through on commitments. The most effective way to build and sustain an environment of trust – and, therefore, a feedback rich and high performance coaching environment – is through your own behaviour. You can strengthen existing relationships by exhibiting trustworthy behaviours yourself and cultivating those behaviours in others. Typical Trust Breakers have been researched to be:
1) Breaking Promises;
2) Serving Own Interests;
3) Acting Inconsistently;
4) Avoiding Issues;
5) Making Assumptions;
6) Doubting Others.
Rapport is about matching. Matching their language – are you speaking the same descriptive language and does the person like to have things described in words, pictures or feelings? Matching their pace – fast or slow? Matching their tone – loud or soft, harsh or gentle? Matching their breathing. Matching their body posture. Matching their movement rhythms. Matching their style. In general, the greater the degree of matching, the greater the degree of rapport, understanding and communication success.
Investment of Time
How much time should the Leadership Coach plan for their coaching? Research shows that a typical Leader of Leaders with a span of control of 6-8 direct reports should spend at least 20% of their time on coaching. This includes preparing, completing and following up. Planned coaching sessions will typically be between 30 and 90 minutes in duration. Ad-hoc and On-demand session will typically be between 5 and 15 minutes.
Pay attention to your coaching ROCI (Return on Coaching Investment). The book The Tao of Coaching says investing 10 minutes per day coaching pays back 20 minutes per day. As part of ROCI you also need to evaluate your coaching based on the objective results you achieve through others. Tools such as the Coaching Contract will prompt you to calculate this. This and other tools and templates are in the online Coaches Toolkit.