Maximising the potential of your Coaching Conversations

It’s well known that Coaching is one of the essential tools in a leader’s toolkit. So, do you have it readily accessible in your toolkit or is it buried so deep that it rarely sees the light of day?

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How do you ensure that Coaching is a readily accessible tool that helps you to grow and develop your people?

And how do you ensure you get the best results from your coaching activity?
The well known GROW model is a great structure for managing coaching conversations but, to really maximise your effectiveness as a coach, skilful use of a number of fundamental communication tools is required. (Click here for more detail about the GROW model for coaching.)

In this blog, I share my thoughts on how to use these skills so you can ensure Coaching is part of your leadership toolkit!

When working with coaching groups, I always start by asking what are the key skills and attributes of a coach. Of course, the list varies, depending on the group, but there are two skills that appear at the top of the list every single time:

Listening & Questioning

We all know how to listen and ask questions, but how do we best utilise these skills in coaching situations? If you can hone your questioning and listening skills, you'll be well on the way to conducting effective coaching conversations.

Listening

Listening is key in order to demonstrate that you value and respect the person you’re coaching. If you don’t listen, how can you ask the ‘right’ questions? But how do you actually listen and give your full attention to what the person is saying? So often, there is other ‘noise’ going on, either internally or externally, which stops us from truly listening.

Someone once said to me "are you really listening or are you just waiting to speak?". For me, this is a brilliant question in its own right. I’m sure you can think of many situations where you were doing exactly that…. waiting to speak! If there is something, front of brain, that you want to share with your coachee, it will stop you from listening as your brain will focus on what you want to say next. Whilst your coachee is talking, explaining their situation, it's tempting to start thinking of ways to solve their problem – but, as a coach, this is NOT YOUR job! Doing this will stop you from listening and may even mean that you miss some vital information that would help you get a full and accurate picture of the situation.

So, if you find yourself thinking about solutions at this early stage, jot them down as they come to you (but don't share them yet – save them until later when you have a complete and accurate picture of the situation) and then get back to listening. A great test to check if you're really listening is to see if you can accurately summarise what you've just heard!

Questioning

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The GROW model provides you with a framework for asking questions in a structured way and you may have already developed your own repertoire of questions for each of the four stages.

Over the years I have developed my own bank of questions which I have 'at my fingertips' and can readily access at the appropriate time. For each stage of GROW, I'd like to share one key question that may help you too.

GOAL

– The Steven Covey principle of Begin with the End in Mind is a useful starting point for any coaching conversation so the question:

“What do you want to achieve?”

be it in this coaching session, short, long, or medium term, is a good place to start and I would follow it up with a subsequent question that asks:

“How will you know that you’ve achieved this/been successful?”

as this will help the coachee to visualise success so they are clearer about what they do and don’t want.

REALITY

– This is about getting the coachee to articulate the current situation and, sometimes, it’s important here to grow the sense of problem and need so that the person creates their own motivation to act!

The questions:

“In what way does it IMPACT you, when ……?”

and

“How would it help if you were to resolve the situation?”

will help to develop a sense of dissatisfaction with the current situation and create a sense of need to do something about it.

OPTIONS

– This is where possible solutions are discussed. It's useful here to help the individual really think through all the possibilities for themselves. Sometimes, you may have additional ideas that have not emerged from the options' generation discussion. You could, of course, just tell them your suggestion but that goes against the spirit of true coaching where your job is to help people realise their own potential in order to maximise their performance!

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In these circumstances, I would pose the hypothetical question:

"What would happen if you put "x" in place?"

as this helps the coachee to consider other options. This question is more helpful than asking:

"Why don't you just do "x"?

as this is more leading and may not encourage the coachee to think the idea through.Of course, even if they do think it through, they may not act on it but at least they will have thought about another perspective!

WILL

– Here, we're working to identify and clarify what they will actually do. This is one of my most used questions and gives me a real sense of how committed the coachee is to undertaking the work required.

Once the action and plan has been developed, you can ask:

"On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to seeing this through?"

And, if their response is low, you can then ask:

"What needs to happen for it to be a 9 or 10?"

so you can then help them to think through what else needs to happen to increase their chances of success.

Really listening to what your coachee is telling you and subsequently asking good, open, questions will help you to really understand the context in which they are operating. Listening and then formulating the 'right' questions will ensure you help the coachee to generate their own solutions to which they are committed to achieve.

So, to what extent do you Listen and Question effectively in coaching conversations? Is coaching readily accessible in your leadership tool box?

What tried and tested questions do you use that you'd like to share with others? We'd love to hear from you so add your thoughts in the comments box below.

Look out for December's blog on Presentation Skills.

Posted by Caroline Lewis

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