How well does your manager coach you? And how good a coach are you?
Very few people use coaching skills intuitively. It’s much easier to tell or instruct others to do things, or to point out when they are doing something wrong. And it’s easy to think we are ‘coaching’ when in fact, we are not. It’s important to be mindful of the impact of our communications and to consciously choose when to coach.
Coaching isn’t mysterious or necessarily difficult - but it does have to be conscious and intentional. For it to be effective, we all need to think about when and how we coach. Focusing on key practical insights rather than getting bogged down in the theory can help make coaching more accessible and relevant to everyday work situations. For example, when discussing a project with a member of your team and planning how to get your colleague to explore all the issues, or seizing ad hoc opportunities to ask a coaching question when someone comes to you for help.
Intention lies at the heart of effective coaching. Do you want the other person to be able to think through a problem or task? Do you want to encourage them to explore options and decide for themselves which is the best way to proceed? Or are you more interested in getting your own solution implemented? There’s nothing wrong with the latter and sometimes instructing others to do it ‘your way’ is what the situation demands. But when you intend to coach, you need to take a different approach. And you need to do it consciously.
Coaching questions are your most powerful tool for making a difference to the way your people think. Using questions to encourage someone else to think for themselves simply means choosing to the right kind of questions.
The next time someone comes to you with a problem they want solved or a challenge they need to overcome, try asking them divergent questions to open up their line of thinking instead of giving them your views. It’s very tempting to want to share your opinion and experience. But if your intention is to coach the other person, try to resist this urge!
Start with questions to help them clarify the problem or situation. Questions like, ‘Describe the problem to me?’ or, ‘What exactly do you want to achieve?’ are good examples.
If the problem or task is a complex one, it can be useful to break it down into manageable chunks to promote clear thinking. Questions like, ‘What would you say are the important issues here?’ or, ‘How can this be broken down into individual steps?’ help the other person to think logically.
Divergent questions can then be used to multiply the range of possible options or solutions for consideration. ‘What other solutions might there be?’, ‘What haven’t you considered yet?’, ‘If that wasn’t possible, what else could you do?’
are examples of divergent questions which help the person you are coaching consider a wider range of possibilities.
To evaluate the generated options, you need to ask more convergent questions to encourage the other person to narrow down the best course of action. ‘How long will that take?’, ‘Do you have the necessary resources?’, for example. And finally, you need to ensure you include a question about timelines and deadlines, ‘When will you do it by?’, or ‘When would you like to review progress?’. This keeps everything on track.
Everyone needs reminding of the benefits of coaching. Writing this article has reminded me of how I sometimes overlook opportunities and how tempting it is to ‘instruct’ rather than ‘coach’. Watching a short video is a convenient and useful way to boost your skills.
‘What is Coaching?’ is a short video and one of three ‘WATCH & GO’ programmes covering the important management skill of coaching.
About WATCH & GO® videos
WATCH & GO® videos show people how to perform better at work by illustrating practical phrases and key behaviours in just a few minutes. There are around 60 titles, each dealing with a different management topic or ‘tricky’ situation. Learners simply ‘watch’ and ‘go’ to manage everyday situations at work.
Video Views is the name of our WATCH & GO® video blog
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