A conversation to help cope with change

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Questions

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A conversation to help cope with change

A conversation to help cope with change

I’d like you to meet Nat. Nat runs the Accounts Department in a small engineering company. Until quite recently he reported to the founder and owner of the business, Valerie. They had a great relationship with few formal controls and Nat was free to do more or less as he pleased as long as the job got done. Around six months ago, Valerie sold the business to a larger engineering firm and Nat now reports to the new Managing Director, Glen.

Glen has become concerned about Nat. He sees him questioning the change all the time and longing for the ‘good old days’. Nat seems to have lost his focus and his staff claim he is becoming erratic.

Glen has invited Nat to join him for lunch in a quiet corner of the work’s canteen

Glen How’s it going then?
Nat Alright
Glen Look Nat, I know the recent changes have made you uncomfortable. The last time we spoke you said that you thought we were just becoming ‘busy fools’. You resisting things in this way makes me feel as if I’m not going to have your support and I need your support if we’re going to hit the revised targets.

Glen has recognized that before the real coaching work can begin there needs to be acknowledgement of an underlying problem. Some may have been tempted to start lecturing Nat on the wider issues, the drivers for the change and the improvements planned, but Glen realizes that he must demonstrate a willingness to listen to why Nat is showing resistance to change.

Nat You do have my support, it’s just that things are so different now. I’m always being asked to report back and I seem to spend every waking hour filling in new forms.
Glen Always?
Nat Well no of course not literally all the time, but there’s just so much more red tape now. It never used to be like this
Glen How do your team feel?
Nat I’m not sure really, they don’t say a lot. I’m sure they feel the same way.
Glen What do you think needs to happen?
Nat I think it’s all been a bit much too soon. Perhaps if we could just introduce things a bit more slowly

Glen is encouraging Nat to explore the reality (and in a real life situation he’ll want to go into more depth) and he is now gently encouraging him to set his sights on a more positive aim.

Glen Are you being completely honest with me here Nat?
Nat Yes. Absolutely.
Glen OK. You realize that I have to follow new procedures too, but I do understand your concerns. What do you think we could specifically do?
Nat Well, take the monthly purchase ledger stats for a start. Those figures are on the system anyway so it’s duplicating work… Could we not just stop that one?
Glen Wendy asked for that but she may not have realized the figures were already available. Do me a favour and ring her directly on that one would you?
Nat Sure no problem
Glen What else could you try Nat?
Nat When you asked about the team I realized I hadn’t really taken time to get their views. I’ll talk to them too.
Glen That sounds like a good idea. Let’s talk again when you’ve had time to do that.

This conversation has not followed the coaching ARROW slavishly in any way, but all the steps are there. Glen has effectively used coaching to encourage Nat to raise his awareness of the things that are interfering with his accepting the recent changes. They’ll undoubtedly need further conversations, but they’ve made a solid start.

A conversation to restore motivation

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Questions

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A conversation to restore motivation

A conversation to restore motivation

Remember Ringo from an earlier post (Is it a question of Willingness or Ability)?

We learnt that he is reluctant to delegate and worries over his staff while they do tasks for him. We decided that Ringo fitted the ‘Able but not willing‘ description because he understands how to delegate, but doesn’t put it into practice. How can we motivate him to take up delegation? Pay him more? Threaten him with dire consequences? It seems unlikely that these approaches would do much good in the long term, so let’s see what a coaching conversation might produce. We’ll assume that the subject of Ringo needing to delegate more has arisen at his staff appraisal.




Looking at last year’s notes, I see that my predecessor discussed the idea of you delegating more work. How’s that been going?
Ringo Ok I suppose, but I don’t like doing it if I’m honest. I worry that things will go wrong.
Brain How often does that happen?
Ringo What, how often do things actually go wrong?
Brian Well, we might come on to that, but actually I was wondering how often you worry about delegating
Ringo Oh right. Err, not all the time, you know? It’s just when it’s really important stuff and where we’ll be in trouble if mistakes are made?
Brain How does that make you feel?
Ringo Well it’s not good is it? I mean anyone can delegate if the result doesn’t matter.

Notice how Brian has started at the Reality stage because he wants to understand what has happened with Ringo’s efforts so far. His coaching questions are increasing Ringo’s awareness of his feelings regarding delegation and are uncovering his dilemma of knowing what he should do but worrying about the results.

Brain What would it be like if you didn’t have these problems?
Ringo It would be great, I could get the team doing more of the important stuff and get on with my development projects.
Brian How would you need to be?
Ringo I don’t get you?
Brian How would your behaviour need to change?
Ringo Oh right. I’d need to be more confident in setting out the requirements to the team and I suppose I’d need to be more confident in myself to just let it be once I’ve delegated.
Brain Ok, when would you like to have become this ‘confident delegator’
Ringo Hmmm. Let’s say in 3 months

Brain may feel like going into more detail, but has succeeded already in helping Ringo become aware of a worthwhile aim. We’ll assume that on reflection Brian and Ringo agree that this is a realistic aim and join them at the Options stage.

Brian What could you do then Ringo?
Ringo Well last year they arranged a delegation seminar, but that didn’t really help. I’d covered all the theory before.
Brian So, what else could you try?
Ringo Well this conversation’s helped me realise that the problem is really in my own head; it’s because I worry about the consequences. I reckon I could delegate some of the worry too. I need to make sure that whoever I delegate tasks to is aware of the consequences and that they need to help me come up with a contingency plan in case things do go wrong.

As Ringo has become more aware of the true nature of his issue, his motivation has increased alongside the realization that he can take steps to change his situation. Notice that it has only taken Brian two questions at the Options stage to generate a flow of fresh ideas. They simply need to agree a few action steps and timings at the Way Forward stage and Brian can allow Ringo to go and implement his plan.


A conversation to address workplace challenges

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Questions


A conversation to address workplace challenges

For sake of ease, we’ll return to the example of Ed, whom we met in the last post, Navigating the Competency Cycle, and imagine that his boss, Sue, knew a thing or two about coaching and decided to have a chat with Ed about undertaking the domestic announcements.

Sue So I’m going to ask what might seem like a strange question, ‘How will you know if you’ve been successful?
Ed Err, that is a strange question. I guess if the group looks happy and if I feel happy too.
Sue ‘Happy’s’ a bit woolly Ed, what exactly will you look for?
Ed Well, I’d expect to see the group smiling and looking relaxed and I won’t feel nervous.
Sue How will you feel then?
Ed I suppose confident and relaxed

Sue’s questions have helped Ed define an aim in terms of what success will feel like. Her questions are raising Ed’s awareness of those feelings such that he’s likely to focus on them rather than his nervousness.

Sue How do you feel about it at the moment though Ed?
Ed Well, I’m a bit uptight to be honest. I’m not used to this and I know Brian does it like falling off a log, but I’m not used to speaking to groups
Sue Have you ever done anything similar?
Ed Actually, when I was at school I often used to have to take parents around on open evenings. We’d go from class to class and I’d have to explain the different things that went on
Sue What did you notice when you did that?
Ed What did I notice? That’s another strange question. I was confident enough I suppose it’s just that I couldn’t remember what I had to say.

In exploring the reality Sue has encouraged Ed to become better aware of what exactly he experiences in these situations.

Sue So, how big is the difference between what you felt then and how you want to feel on Monday?
Ed You know, it’s not that big actually, it’s just remembering what to say.

Sue’s reflection questions are quite subtle, but the reflecting is happening nonetheless.

Sue What could you do about that then Ed?
Ed Well it’s just spending time memorizing the routine I suppose. I’ll do some homework over the weekend
Sue What else could you try?
Ed I don’t know. Nothing I can think of.
Sue What if you had to give the announcement right now?
Ed I’d have to write it down, perhaps on some note cards. That’s a good idea anyway actually.

With just a little work Sue has encouraged Ed to think beyond the obvious option.

Sue So?
Ed Yeah, you’re right Sue. If I jot a few prompts on an index card I’ll not worry about forgetting things and that’ll make me feel a lot better. Thanks for the suggestion.

Sue decides not to tell Ed that actually this was a way forward he decided for himself; that he is responsible. She feels encouraged enough that she has his trust.

We can also see that although is clearly using the ARROW structure, she is using questions in her own style and in a much more conversational way.