1. They help people think deeply and broadly about any topic brought into the conversation, providing much needed reflective space in the busy world of work.
2. They allow people identify moments of good performance and mine them for insights that can aid further development, accelerating improvement.
3. They give people unusual amounts of attention and focus during a conversation, making them feel valued and boosted.
And that is just for starters…..
A while ago I co-delivered a workshop at Institute of Fundraising National Convention in London and the topic was the role of coaching within career development. The participants experienced a coaching conversation that focused on a moment where they performed well at work and how that could help them identify effective approaches to use in future. It struck me again how unfamiliar it can feel to talk about something you do well, but how boosting it is to hear someone else echo that back so that you can focus on it further. Some people in the group blushed; some mentioned feeling awkward and finding it difficult to even identify something positive; some commented that it was a very positive thing to bring into a 1:1 or a team meeting setting, to further strengthen performance by identifying approaches that work and feel comfortable. Many people commented that they could see immediate applications to their everyday role at work and were hungry to seek out a coach, further training or some more reading. How inspiring!
In case you need more reasons to embrace coaching approaches…
4. They help people feel more confident in their own thinking and decision making, leading over time to more independent, pro active teams. This can be great for the teams as they feel empowered and enabled to do more within their role; it is great for managers too, who can stop micro managing and share the workload more appropriately, giving team members space to be more active.
5. They help you to become a better listener, able to attend to the words, the emotion, the energy that people bring to a reflective dialogue because you are focusing on the other person, extending their thinking instead of trying to make your own point. For some people, this experience is a revelation as they honestly comment that they have never/rarely listened in this way before and realise that their listening skills are not always the best.
6. They give you another skill to use in your interactions with others, a new tool for the communications toolkit. For some people this becomes a new path at work (coaching others formally) and even a new career direction, opening up a route into the wider world of coaching and development. For others it is all assimilated into an evolving style of communication with others at home as well – less telling, more asking.
So what are the features of a coaching conversation?
The coachee brings a topic or goal to the coaching conversation and the coach supports their thinking process through questions, attentive listening, noticing details of language, tone and energy. The coachee works their way to a plan/solution that appeals to them; the coach doesn’t impose or prescribe that.
The real skill is in the active listening, including quietening down the internal mental chatter the coach can experience, to allow for high quality attention and the use of insightful questions.
As participants noted at the convention, doing this is not as easy as writing it. You can feel a great desire to share your advice or experience but in this type of dialogue there are big benefits from holding back:
- Coachee can stay on their own mental track
- Coachee doesn’t feel obliged to adopt your suggestions
- Coachee gets the confidence boost of thinking it out for themselves
- Coachee owns the final action plan
When to coach? When not to?
Sometimes at work you just need to tell people things e.g. passing on policy directives, explaining a procedure to a new member of staff. In those situations a coaching approach would be inappropriate. It is not about becoming a person who just asks questions and no longer gives any advice or opinions ever; it is about realising that sometimes people will get more, get further, feel enabled, if you encourage more thought and less passivity. It is about widening your repertoire of communication tools and seeing where that will take you and others.
For more tips on developing coaching skills for yourself or your organisation: