“Coaching is not something you do, it’s who you are.” It took me awhile to understand the full meaning of this statement. It finally dawned on me when my daughter started a conversation with “Mom, I don’t want you to coach me, I just need you to listen”. What excited me most while reflecting on my daughter’s comment was that I realized there were opportunities where I could still wear the coach’s hat even though I wasn’t necessarily working with a ‘’coachee’’. I could take a ‘’coach approach” to help move people forward, bring about new awareness and create momentum for change.
By taking the coach approach with family members or friends, you can focus on their strengths and insightfulness. The same applies to bringing this approach into your office with a colleague or boss. You can help discover that untapped potential of a peer or your team in order to draw out solutions while developing confidence, skills and leadership.
What are some ways you can use this approach to help a family member or friend get clear about what they really want in a situation? At work, how can you leave the direct management approach out of the equation and still foster collaborative teamwork and high performance? In other words, how can you incorporate the coach approach in any area of your life?
Be genuinely curious.
Start with understanding the individual’s objectives by engaging in conversation and finding out what might be causing the problems. What does he want to achieve? What does success look like? What is holding him back from this goal? What are the perceived and/or real barriers? What role does he have in it? What role do you have in it? Can he describe a more ideal situation?
Be really curious about the situation at hand by examining it differently from your perspective and instead seeing how the person views it. I call this ‘’throwing everything out on the table’’. Sometimes people need to just verbalize everything around a problem that they’ve had swimming in their minds so they can define it more clearly. Most of the time once it’s been articulated, it’s not as big and murky as they had envisioned.
Ask open-ended questions.
One of the hardest habits to break once you start coaching is asking closed-ended questions, and start asking open-ended questions to further explore the topic at hand. Open-ended questions are insightful and require much more than a yes or no answer. They are not leading, but instead encourage a person to do her best thinking and generate potential ways to solve the problem. These intuitive questions begin with words like what, how or who? For example:
Instead of: Have you considered…..?
Ask: What have you already considered?
Instead of: Do you think …….?
Ask: How might you explore that further?
Instead of: Can you find someone to help you?
Ask: Who do you know that has dealt with this before?
Don’t judge, listen.
As with human nature, we routinely get caught up in wanting to give the right answer, especially in work situations with our peers and supervisors. Maybe you have even asked yourself these questions. What do they want to hear so that I will be perceived well and rated highly at the end of the year? What if I agree with one supervisor, but this differs with others in leadership positions putting me in a situation where I don’t please anyone?
Effective coaching asks a question without the person knowing or feeling that there is a right or wrong answer. After all, there is only the answer that is true to them.
In addition, using a tone that is non-judgmental is critical in letting them know you are sincere. Asking someone “What’s the right answer?” in a very even tone is much different from asking the same question with emphasis on the word ‘’right’’. It’s important that you keep the focus on the individual by not adding your thoughts or opinions.
Pause and pave the way when needed.
Sometimes we need to ask tough questions, but a little pause and a little paving can provide the needed cushion to prevent the person from going into defense mode and help gain a clear understanding of the objective and definition of success. Sometimes the situation warrants that you pave the road you travel down first. See the difference:
Instead of: Dan, what are you really trying to achieve here? (It may sound like you are insinuating an ulterior motive.)
Ask: Dan, from what you’ve said I’m a little confused about your objective. Would you please tell me more about what success will really look like in your eyes?
By incorporating the coach approach into your management style or everyday life, you can bring out those leadership skills, help strengthen those relationships or help someone figure out the solution for themselves.