Coaching

by Jeremy Cassell and Tom Bird

Different approaches to coaching

You can coach someone effectively in many different ways, from informal short telephone conversations through to quite lengthy face-to-face meetings.

Brief coaching

Brief coaching is generally informal and can take just a couple of minutes. Often you have not had a chance to prepare for it and it may take you by surprise. You could simply respond to the situation with an opinion or view, but you may want to use the opportunity to raise awareness and develop clarity or learning. You often don’t have the time in these situations for in-depth coaching or to follow a coaching process.

Benefits Challenges
  • Informal learning and increased awareness
  • Helping you add value to the other person
  • Helping someone get clear on what, specifically, they want
  • Identification of a specific opportunity for more coaching
  • An opportunity to provide feedback
  • You may not have a lot of time to do the topic justice
  • You may not be in the most appropriate environment for a coaching conversation
  • You might be caught by surprise
  • It can be easier to just ‘tell’
Examples

Comment from other person: ‘Oh, while you are here, what do you think I should do about this?’

Example coaching response: ‘What have you considered already? What are the pros and cons of each option?’

Comment: ‘I can’t seem to make my mind up about xyz.’

Response: ‘What do you need in order to be able to make up your mind?’ or ‘What are the considerations in making your mind up?’

Comment: ‘I have got problems with Tom at the moment – he seems to be a little distracted from his work.’

Response: ‘What have you seen that makes you feel that way? What do you need to do to move the situation forward?’

Tips
  • Listening is your key priority – what is important to this person at this time?
  • Focus on asking one or two questions based on what is important.
  • Often, helping someone get clarity around their issue or their goal/objective is beneficial.
  • Be prepared to set up a time for a longer coaching session if necessary.
  • Think to yourself, ‘What is the one question that I could ask them that would make the biggest difference?’

Single coaching conversations

A lot of coaching may only require one session – a single coaching conversation. Your objective here is to leave the other person more competent, whether that is around approaching a task, making a decision or developing a skill.

Benefits Challenges
  • Focus on a specific aspect of performance
  • The potential for immediate results
  • Increased self-awareness for the coachee
  • Clarity around the action plan
  • A more complex underlying issue
  • Agreeing the specifics of the issue and the boundaries of the coaching
  • The need to focus the conversation around the desired outcome for the session
  • Time to do the topic justice

A couple of examples of occasions when a single coaching conversation might be what is needed are given below.

Aimless complaining

If aimless complaining is the issue, where do you start? If coaching is appropriate, start with giving objective, descriptive feedback and asking for the person’s views. You might, for example, ask ‘What do you think the impact is on others of...?’

A particular instance of a simple, but repeated, mistake

Where would you start in this instance? Confirm the specific goal for the session; gain agreement that there has been a repeated mistake; ask questions to raise awareness about what happens for the coachee at that particular stage and so on.

Tips
  • Be really clear on the goal.
  • Make sure you have prepared effectively and that coaching is appropriate.
  • Ensure the action plan is clear.
  • Challenge the person about what could get in the way of action and what, specifically, they will do about it.

Coaching over several sessions

A lot of coaching interventions require more than one coaching session, as they address more complex and/or detailed issues. Often, when you are aiming to help an individual change behaviours or adopt new behaviours or skills, you need to overcome habit, which can take time.

Benefits Challenges
  • A longer-term learning opportunity
  • Can explore the issue fully
  • Greater self-awareness in the coachee
  • An opportunity for deeper coaching and more fundamental change
  • Making the time
  • Keeping focused on the outcomes
  • Areas that you do not feel comfortable coaching or are not qualified to discuss
  • Pressure for short-term results
Examples

Some examples of issues that may well require several sessions are given below.

  • An individual is not being open to input and feedback from other people.
  • The person might have an undesirable behaviour for a specific role, or around their communication with others.
  • There may be a performance-related issue.
  • The person might be performing well, but you believe there is much more potential within them.
  • The issue is one of time management.
  • Succession planning is required.
Tips
  • Spend enough time getting really clear on the outcomes/goals.
  • Have a goal for each coaching session.
  • Contract clearly. What will you discuss and what will you not discuss?
  • As your sessions progress, think about challenge and trust to make the most of your coaching – don’t just go for comfort coaching.