Coaching provides a challenging thinking space that enables people to access fresh ideas and develop and apply new approaches. Read our Top 10 Tips from Lead Consultant Robbie Lightfoot on how to get the most out of a one-to-one session with your team.
- Right time and place
You want to be able to give someone the time and space they need to open up and talk through what is important to them – give plenty of thought to when and where you coach them. It is also crucial that you are in the right place to be able to give them your full focus.
- Seek first to understand
Don’t talk, just listen to start with and give them your full attention to ensure that they are fully enabled to share their thoughts during the conversation. Plato once said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work”. The more you can understand the person’s starting point, the more effective you can be at helping them to move forward.
- Start with the end in mind
Once your colleague has shared what they want to talk about, don’t make assumptions about what they need – instead find out what a great outcome for them would be. It may be a solution, it may be a series of different options, it may be validation, or they may just need to download.
- Its ok to flex
The best coaches are those that use the right approach for that individual in that particular situation. Often the most effective way is to help them come up with their own solution or next steps, people often know themselves better than anyone else does. It is honourable to try and give them the answer but giving advice is better left for when they are genuinely stuck.
- Silence is golden
I remember John Webster, one of the coaches who trained me saying, “70% of the value that you bring as a coach is the safe listening environment you create to enable people to trust you enough to fully open up.” It is important to go at their pace. For example, once they have answered your question, allow a few seconds pause to ensure they don’t have anything else to add.
- Questions, questions
These are perhaps one of the most important tools in your manager’s toolbox. Open questions are great for building rapport and exploring situations, probing questions are good for gaining more detail and getting to the bottom of things. Closed questions also have their place in terms of checking things out and moving the person towards making a decision or taking action.
- Expect to reflect
Summarising and para-phrasing are key skills for effective coaching. They of course show that you are interested and that you are listening to what the person has to say. They also build rapport and show empathy, as well as giving the person the opportunity to fill in the gaps if you have missed anything.
- Be curious
This is more of a mind-set rather than a technique and one held by all good coaches. It is important not to judge or make assumptions but to keep an open mind and pick up and reflect back anything that makes you curious. This could be a word or phrase, it could be a sudden change in non-verbal behaviour or anything that the person does that interests you.
- Solutions not solution
When coaching we want to help people so there is sometimes a temptation to go with the first solution that comes along without exploring if there are other better ones. Good coaches see beyond that and push for further options and help the person to evaluate each of them. One of the most important questions to help generate ideas and options is the “what else?” question.
- Actions speak louder than words
It is important to be clear not only what the person is taking away but also check that this links back to what they wanted in the first place. Let them tell you what they are going to do so they own the actions. It is also important to check out their commitment and resolve to implement what is agreed and explore if there are any obstacles that might get in the way. If there are any, you can then work through possible solutions, so they have more chance of success.