This is the first of a two-part series on a topic that’s near and dear to leaders everywhere… but one that may have become overly complex and burdensome. In this first installment, I’ll provide a simple roadmap for ensuring coaching success and I’ll begin to deconstruct the process. Next week, I’ll complete the model and explore its varied uses.
Coaching may be a leader’s most powerful and useful skill. Whether focused on bridging a performance gap, elevating the level of contribution possible, or pursuing career goals, coaches help others make change – change that profoundly affects the individual and the organization as a whole.
But, with countless workshops, webinars, and certifications, have we complicated the process to the point where busy managers may sense that it’s too hard and feel less inclined to engage with employees in this transformative experience? Perhaps it’s time to strip coaching back to its simplest, most essential core and offer an easy-to-remember process for supporting others to make the change they desire.
Coaching is the process of helping others understand where they are, where they want to be, and how they want to bridge the gap. It’s just that simple… and just that challenging. Coaching is not about getting people from point A to B… it’s about helping them recognize the chasm and supporting them in choosing how to span it. Fundamentally, coaching comes down to supporting the direction and means of the other person’s choice.
And coaches can do this with the help of a simple, easy-to-remember model:
- WoW – The ‘what’ or ‘where’ of the desired future state
- Now – The current state
- How – The steps for bridging the gap
WoW (What or Where)
The best and most effective coaching conversations begin with the WoW – what the person wants and where he or she might want to go. Starting by defining the future state and looking out at the goal or destination is essential because:
- It lays a clear and compelling foundation for the conversation.
- Brain research confirms that talking about goals, dreams, and aspirations activates the parts of the brain that enable us to think creatively.
- This constructive future focus releases chemicals that literally let us see more possibilities.
Beginning the coaching conversation where many leaders naturally do – focusing on where the coachee is today, what’s got to change, how to fix problems – shuts down the brain’s ability to function optimally.
“Talking about your positive goals and dreams activates brain centers that open you up to new possibilities. But if you change the conversation to what you should do to fix yourself, it closes you down.”
– Richard Boyatzis
(as quoted by Daniel Goleman in
The Hidden Driver of Excellence)
So, effective coaching involves:
- Getting people thinking and talking about that positive future… and envisioning themselves in it.
- Helping them really wallow in that, anticipating what it will feel, look, and smell like.
- Guiding people to connect to their WoW emotionally.
This sort of emotional connection to the goal is key to supporting and sustaining the motivation required to make real and sustained change.
Prompts that can help guide others to the WoW include:
- Describe your goal in as much detail and as vividly as you can.
- How exactly do you want it to be?
- How will you be different when that happens?
- How will it feel when this becomes a reality?
- What else will you be able to do then?
The phrase Stephen Covey coined, ‘start with the end in mind,’ applies here. The future is the foundation of effective coaching. Once the WoW is established and firmly entrenched, it’s time to move on to the Now.
Check in next week for that. But, in the meantime, what about you? How to you help others get in touch with the future they envision?