This is the second 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 the first installment published last week, I provided a simple roadmap for ensuring coaching success and began to deconstruct the process. Here I’ll complete the model and explore its varied uses.
Coaching – the process of helping others understand where they are, where they want to be, and how they want to bridge the gap – is a leader’s most powerful skill or tool. But, as humans frequently do, we’ve complicated something that is fundamentally very simple.
- WoW – The ‘what’ or ‘where’ of the desired future state
- Now – The current state
- How – The steps for bridging the gap
Starting with the other person’s vision of the future has been scientifically proven to activate the brain centers that promote creative thinking. It’s a hopeful, optimistic, and productive way to lay a foundation for change.
And with that foundation laid, the coachee is ready to confront the Now.
Developing clarity about the current state – how things are today – helps others understand where the journey to WoW begins. A realistic snapshot of how things are now is the counter-balance that will drive action.
Coaches can support others in making change by helping them develop an appreciation of the ABCs*:
- Abilities & skills – Understanding both their strengths and opportunities for improvement
- Blind spots – Patterns, trends, and behaviors that might not be obvious to the individual
- Conditions that are currently in play, holding them in place
It’s important to remember that individuals may be limited in terms of their insights around these ABCs. Even the most self-aware people understand that they’re not completely objective. They know that the ‘reality’ others experience of them may be very different from the intentions they act upon.
And this is where coaches can make their biggest and most frequent mistake. They stop asking questions and move into expert telling mode. Certainly there are times when coaches have information that they’ll want to share with the people whom they coach. But, it’s rarely helpful to do the work for others by pre-digesting the insights and defining their current state. This robs others of the chance to deepen their ability to reflect and generate self-awareness.
So, effective coaches keep their focus on questions like these (rather than providing answers themselves):
- What’s your experience today?
- What do you think you’re particularly good at?
- What do others count on your for?
- What do you struggle with?
When coachees don’t have answers, they may need to gather information from others.
Placing responsibility for gathering feedback where it belongs – with the person being coached – teaches a valuable, lifelong skill set and builds buy-in for the information that surfaces. It expands networks and builds the bridges and support they’ll need as they make the desired changes.
With a clear, compelling, and emotionally enticing picture of the future and clarity about the present, it’s the perfect time for the coach to instigate conversations that get people to start moving toward bridging the gap. Making significant change generally requires a plan, specific steps, and some accountability in term of deadlines or timeframes. Otherwise, the best intentions can be obscured by the other more urgent priorities.
Most people – even those who are new to the workforce – have at least some ideas for bridging the gap between where they want to be and where they currently are. And coaches can mine that with questions like:
- What steps do you need to take?
- What skills must you develop?
- Whose support will you need?
- How will you measure your success?
- By when will that happen?
These questions get others thinking very concretely about the How… and gently guide them toward an action plan that will bridge the gap.
Coaching is a key leadership responsibility; it’s also a tool to drive remarkable individual and organizational results. And while there are nuances and next level skills that can enhance a coach’s effectiveness, at its core, coaching is fairly simple. Just help others get in touch with their WOW (what or where), NOW, and HOW… and you’ll be on your way to POWerful results.
What about you? What makes a difference during your coaching conversations?
* Beverly Kaye & Julie Winkle Giulioni, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want
Image: Liz Price