They say a good title for a book tells you up front what it is about. “Go Put Your Strengths To Work” by Marcus Buckingham is one such title. It’s all about an area which traditionally has been relatively less addressed as executives the world over have scrambled over each other, causing themselves and others great stress in the bargain, to overcome their “weaknesses.”
I watched the young manager reach my table at the restaurant where we usually met for a chat. Even from a distance I could see he was looking rather downcast. My observation was confirmed the moment he sat down.
Almost ignoring my preliminary remarks, he said with some emotion ” I have got a measly raise. Is that all I am worth”? He went on to say that he had expected much more. How much he had contributed to the organization etc etc.
” My team needs coaching. How do I go about it? Is there a structured basis for coaching my team. Is there any model you can suggest ?” asked a senior executive the other day.
I told him my take on what makes coaching effective:
- Mutual respect
- Clarity of goals
- Action orientation
- Holding the gains
Without mutual respect, coaching doesn’t work. Period. There should be a clear understanding of the motivations and capabilities of the participant ( I prefer to use “participant” in the coaching process rather than “coachee” etc.) and the coach. Confidentiality is of the essence. Just as you cannot command your team to respect you, in coaching too, respect must be earned based on your competence.
Without goal clarity, we go nowhere. We need to mutually agree upon realistic expectations on what the coaching will achieve. I have found it useful to quickly cover in the conversation what it will not do as well.
Without an action orientation, you will not get the best out of this investment. To me, an action orientation means time-bound actions which the participant commits to achieve. Action orientation moves the coaching from the discussion venue to the workplace. What eventually matters is not what you talk about but what you actually do.
Without holding the gains, we tend to regress back to our old ways and earlier comfort levels. In my experience, holding the gains is key to coaching success. Participants need to incorporate new skills, new techniques that they have gained into their daily repertoire of managerial skills.
Your success as a coach depends on the accuracy of your assessment of the coaching situation. This assessment comes from gathering information. A model that is frequently used in getting information is the GROW model.
In this, questions are sequenced covering:
- Goal: We get the participants to firm up where they want to be, or what they want to achieve. Working together we then define the goals as clearly as possible
- Reality: We check the goals in the backdrop of the prevailing environment. We identify what is going on, what has been tried, what are the possible obstacles to success etc.
- Options: We help participants draw up possible options to achieve the agreed goals. Can these be prioritized, we ask. What has the best chance of success?
- Will: The participant must commit to, and take responsibility for, carrying out the agreed actions. I have found it useful here to get the participant to “visualise” success such that he/she knows the benefits of achieveing the improvement goals.
Coaching is not about merely listening to the participants woes, being encouraging and hoping for the best!
It involves, as I have tried to bring out in simple terms, clear objectives, mutual effort, choosing actions which have the biggest impact on the participant’s performance and practice with feedback.
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