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What Every Leader Needs to Know About Coaching

In our coaching workshops, we differentiate between management, feedback, and coaching conversations. It’s important for managers to differentiate between the three types of conversations, and determine when to use the different approaches. To review, management conversations are focused on advising, giving instructions, and directing the conversation to help your team members get specific things done. Feedback conversations focus on past behaviors to help people understand the impact of their behaviors, and what needs to change going forward. Coaching conversations are future-focused, and are used to engage, motivate, and empower people to achieve goals that they care about, and ultimately elevate their capabilities by unleashing their potential.

 

In my last blog, I mentioned a leader that I’m coaching who received feedback that he was not coaching his people enough, and that his team members wanted more “coaching.” He was taken aback, and couldn’t decipher why they weren’t “feeling the love,” to use his language.

 

We reviewed what true coaching is, and what he needed to change going forward. During that discussion, we reviewed seven practices that make the biggest difference in one’s ability to coach effectively.

 

1)      Establish the purpose of your meeting right from the start. Clarify that the purpose of the conversation is to advance them, not address issues and problem solve. A useful tool is the How I Want to be Coached form. It’s a great way to set the tone for coaching right from the start.

2)      Start the conversation by asking what they want to discuss.  Agree to a goal or outcome for the conversation.

3)      Ask insightful questions. Use “how” and “what” questions to open the conversation, such as: What are you working on? What are you trying to accomplish? How is your style affecting your effectiveness? Avoid having the conversation migrate to others. Keep it focused on them, and how they can change tomorrow.

4)      Challenge beliefs that could be limiting their effectiveness. Challenge your coachee to be more aware of beliefs and assumptions that may be getting in the way of them showing up in a way that they believe will help them.

5)      Listen for understanding. Your job is to facilitate the conversation so they can explore options and discover different ways to move forward. If you tend to jump in and problem solve, push your pause button. Ask questions, and listen deeply.

6)      Narrow the focus. Once they have identified options to move forward, help them narrow the options. Ask them which of the options resonate most with them. If they have too many options, nothing will get done.

7)      Follow-up and support. Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan wrote a great article entitled Leadership is a Contact Sport, and in the article they outlined the importance of follow-up, support, and encouragement. Remember that all it takes is one question, one check-in, to see how things are going.

 

As we concluded our own coaching conversation, it was obvious that his “coaching” conversations were more about reacting to problems, dealing with people issues, and task management; and not about advancing his team members. He has since responded by implementing 1:1 monthly meetings that are focused on true coaching.

Tom Athenour

Tom has been in the people development business for over 20 years, and has worked with a variety of organizations from start-ups to Fortune 1000 companies. Prior to co-founding StarQuest Group in 1998, he was vice president of marketing for International Learning Systems, Inc., an international performance development consulting firm that worked with Fortune 500 companies worldwide. Before entering the learning and development business, he was in the financial services industry and held leadership positions in marketing, operations and sales. He has worked for companies including Bank of America, California Bancshares, Inc. and Piper Jaffray. Tom currently serves on the board of directors for the Rocky Mountain HR People & Strategy Association (HRPS), and is a member of the Sales Management Association, and the Association for Talent Development. He also is a community leader for YoungLife. He holds an MBA from St. Mary's College of California, and BS in Marketing from the University of Santa Clara.

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