In fact, many questions!
One key role of a leader is to help those around you to be the best they can be. To empower people, they need the skill and the will to do their jobs. What happens when someone has the will, but the skill level is lacking? They need some learning and development! There are different ways of helping people – let’s focus on coaching.
If we’re going to coach people effectively, we need to understand how it really works – many people don’t! They are very good at helping others to learn, but coaching isn’t the method they’re using! They’re probably training, teaching, explaining, advising, guiding or mentoring, but these are not the same as coaching. One delegate once proudly told me that he was ‘coaching’ his colleagues in how to use a new database. He ran 1 to 1 sessions, and told them how to use it: ‘Click on that, now type your name and press enter, then click on that tab in that menu..’ When I told him that was great, but clearly a 1 to 1 training session, he became a bit excitable and insisted that 1 to 1 training is coaching. No, it isn’t!
So what is it then?
If you really are coaching someone, all you do is ask questions. In a training or mentoring relationship, the assumption is that at least one party has knowledge or experience to share with the other – in these cases, it’s the trainer or mentor. However, when we coach someone, the assumption is that the coachee has the knowledge or ideas buried somewhere within them – the coach’s role is to ask thought-provoking questions to bring this information to the surface, and help the coachee to realise that they do know some things. In a coaching conversation, who should be doing most of the talking? The coachee! If not, or the coach is both asking and answering the questions, then coaching has ended and a different method is being used (training or mentoring?)!
The GROW coaching model
Here’s a coaching model for you to try – it’s all question based:
What do you want to achieve?
What is important to you right now?
What areas do you want to work on?
What do you want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
Where are you now in relation to your goal?
On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you?
What skills/knowledge/attributes do you have?
Describe your current level of knowledge regarding this topic?
What are your options?
I’d like you to come up with 5 options.
How have you tackled a similar situation before?
What might you do differently next time?
Choose your best options.
What actions will you take?
What will be the first step towards achieving your goal?
When are you going to start?
This coaching model is very flexible – at each stage, ask sufficient questions and when you feel you have learnt enough, move on.
A final thought
The assumption when coaching is that the coachee has ideas and knowledge which the right questions should bring out. But what if the assumption is wrong, and after a few questions the only answers have been ‘dunno, dunno that either, please just tell me!’. Perhaps coaching isn’t the right approach here and it’s time for some training or mentoring? If the individual leaves knowing more than when they arrived, then you’ve helped them to learn and develop. Who cares how you got there?
Coaching is a topic covered on many of our Management and Leadership training courses. However, if you aren’t feeling confident with feedback and performance management, a great place to start is our Introduction to Management training course.