Welcome back to “Lead by Coaching: The Missing Piece”… In this second post we will explore “The ‘How’ of Coaching”.
Let’s briefly recap the ending paragraphs of Part 1 as a reference point:
“A good place for us to venture next in discussing coaching might be to define it. Simply put, my working definition is ‘Coaching is the technology of success.’ It is about learning, studying, developing and understanding the principles and concepts that are behind people succeeding or not. And coaching also involves competency with a set of tools that put these ideas into action to achieve the desired results. It is a very complex and rich multi-disciplinary field.
As a leader/coach, your job is to help your reports define what they think success is – what they really care about, what’s going to make them excited to come to work every day – and then align that with what success means to you in your area of responsibility. Once you have done that, you have set the stage to attract them into a process of self motivated, self serving activity – a process in which they align themselves with what you want them to be up to.
So you see, we are back to Leadership by Attraction. This is how coaching and Leadership by Attraction fit; this is the ‘why’ of it.”
Now in part 2 of this blog, we will dig into the “how” of coaching as tool of leadership – the nuts and bolts of it.
What coaching does:
The motive power of coaching is action learning.
Bite size learning, situationally relevant, put into practice, reviewed for deeper learning and then reapplied to another situation in revised and improved version – a feedback loop.
It runs something like this: when something comes up on someone’s job they are challenged by, then as a coach you bring or help them arrive at an idea or method or behavior they need to learn that will help address that. You talk about that together so that they get an understanding of it. They commit to go and try it in that situation. Then you will get together afterwards and do an after-action-review:
- How did it go?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What did you learn?
- What do you need to do differently?
- Let’s revise our approach, customize it for your personality and then let’s look for another situation to try again.
Action-learning loops are going on all the time in coaching, often times in a variety of different arenas at the same time.
Coaching also involves evoking – bringing out of people what’s already is in there.
Attracting, all of this is about attracting (remember Leadership by Attraction from Part 1?). How do you do it? You do it by modeling. As a coach/manager you have to be walking your talk in a way that wins their admiration and desire to aspire in your direction (remember “being the change”, Axiom 1 of Leadership by Attraction?).
The coaching process is also about seeing the highest and best in people, maybe before they see it in themselves. Then challenging them to dig it out, take it for a few test runs and begin to realize it’s true. Treating them as if they already were that way (remember Axiom 2 of Leadership by Attraction?).
What a coach provides:
I look at coaching as having three primary pillars. These are the areas of value that a coach is responsible to bring to the relationship. These are the power tools of the technology of success.
Knowledge and Resources:
What do your people need to know in order to succeed? Can they come to you as their source? That means you have to spend some time gaining and expanding knowledge that is of contextual value and broad enough to be applicable to different people in different situations.
Where can your people turn to grow and learn as needed? How will they access training, specialists and mentors – resources. That means you’ve got to have some; because rest assured, you can’t provide it all. You have to be building some relationships. This is another reason the network-building process is so important to your success as a leader. You need to be building solid and strategic connections inside and outside of your company with people that have a broad variety of interests and expertise so I can pull from that for your people when they need something specific (Social Capital).
Hence the unavoidable realization that order to be an effective leader-coach you will have to be spending some time outside of the coaching relationship developing some of these things your coachee/reports are going to need. Start today allocating time for gaining knowledge and resources, so that when you sit down with your people you have something to bring to the table. That is one of the things a leader is getting paid to be doing – really.
Awareness and Focus:
Where does your coachee need to focus? Are they paying attention to the right stuff? Are they going in the right direction? Are they getting the awareness of themselves and what’s around them that they need to succeed?
This is about the art of asking questions, about listening fully and openly to their answers. It involves offering thoughtful, challenging and unconditionally constructive feedback. A coach must be willing to tell the truth – to be willing to point out, in a way that leaves them open to hearing, the things your coachee can’t see, the blind spots. As an aside, it may involve gathering feedback from folks around the report, who may not have as a clear perception of themselves as they think they do.
Accountability and Celebration:
Part of coaching is push, part of it is pull. The push lies in encouraging somebody to reach their limit and stretch just a little bit beyond that – AND providing them the various forms of support they need to get through their fear and be successful. Then the pull on the other side is the accountability.
It’s all about the actions: “What are you going to do differently based on this conversation that you wouldn’t otherwise do, if we weren’t having it?” We call these actions “stretch-goals”. Goals because they need to be things that are clearly doable, yet stretches in that they are challenging – just beyond the coachee’s edges. We want to grow their capacity, to push their limits farther out, to help them to get comfortable being uncomfortable – even welcome it. The goal is to create continuous series of successes because each success makes it easier to embark on the next one.
Celebration is a ritual or ceremony about acknowledging the value of something – being aware of and actually experiencing the value of something – feeling it recharge the emotional batteries. There is a tremendous amount of motivation available in celebration; it is another free resource to power up performance and drive success.
We have developed a tool at theWealthSource called “The Technology of Celebration”. It is a practical application of this concept, a methodology and it can be downloaded as a gift from us :: The Technology of Celebration >>
If you can facilitate celebration with the person you are coaching or with your team on a regular basis, you get to unleash all of that power and confidence – peak performance – individually and as a group with your people. The sustainable impact on overall productivity is huge. The financial cost is next to nothing.
Building the coaching engagement:
In building a coaching relationship, first there is a foundation to set. It all has to do with establishing trust. Sitting down and learning together the information about the employee or person being coached – their story. Building processes of communication and interactions, commitments, ground rules, confidentiality.
The relationship has to be built by both people:
- What are you looking for?
- What do I need?
- How are we are we going to do this together?
Forge explicit agreements; there is no single more critical factor to a successful relationship – of any kind!!
All of this typically happens in the first several sessions of coaching. In the next couple, there is a process of co-creating a developing plan: What needs to be learned? What new skills to be gained, new behaviors to practice? What habits to build or break? What are an achievable number of specific, well-defined growth objectives? And what will success look like in each of them – by when? With all these pieces in place, it is time to shift into drive and engage the whole process – putting it into action. This where results are generated where the real value is created.
The coaching meeting:
The fundamental building block of the coaching process is the coaching session, although the most important and valuable part of the coaching happens in between sessions – out on the playing field. Schedule a time to get together for the specific purpose of coaching and nothing else. It’s not about progress reports or day-to-day business dealings; it is strictly focused on your partnership in mutual success.
In order to be successful – especially given that you are not a coach by primary expertise, you must have a structure to the meeting – a recipe to follow. If you are only going to have an hour or hour and a half together, you need to accelerate the conversation to a fairly deep level and collaborative basis, fairly quickly. The place to start is with a “check-in”. A check-in is another ritual – like celebration. Its function is to create a relational and mind space appropriate for and conducive to what is intended to happen in that gathering: “Where are you at right now? What’s your state of mind? What is going on in your life currently about which you have significant emotions? What do you want to have happen here today?”
Then you facilitate the celebration of your coachee’s recent wins:
- What are some successes you have had since we met last?
- What are some things you feel good about?”
- At this point congratulations and even applause are in order.
With these two first steps, you have gotten connected and co-created a context of success.
The container is now set, so to speak, for the technology of success to be employed. The next step is to have your coachee report on previous stretch actions and action commitments: “How did you do? What did you do? What did you learn? What didn’t you do? What got in the way, and how will you grow from that knowledge?”
And now The Work: here there is an opportunity in the coaching session during which you can dig together into whatever needs working on: “What’s the situation? What do you need to learn and do to succeed in it? What is your strategy going to be?”
Finally you create a new action list to move forward and check out: “What did you gain of value? What do you need? When are we going to meet next?”
It may well be that the last question is the most important. Every coaching session has to end with the firm knowledge that and when the next coaching meeting will occur. Being committed is crucially important. If you make appointments as a leader with your people to coach them, but cancel, miss or regularly reschedule meetings, it’s worse than not having committed to do it at all. It will destroy what trust there is. You have to make the coaching important – to care about it and for it – if you want your coachee to.
In the broader and longer view, one objective of coaching is to produce specific external results. The other purpose, perhaps more valuable, is to produce a better-built employee – with a sustainably expanded capacity to produce results better and faster – evoking enhanced performance and execution.
This is a big deal for you as a leader; you are responsible for something happening in your area of responsibility to your company. So in the end, your job in the coaching process is to align your employee’s motivation to grow and do things with what a company needs to happen for its success. This is what it means to Lead by Coaching.