A conversation that uses Tell in a coaching style

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Questions

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A conversation that uses Tell in a coaching style

A conversation that uses Tell in a coaching style

Finally in this series of posts on coaching conversations, a quick, task focused exchange.

Matt Angie, I need you to finish preparing that slide presentation by 5pm, so I can send it to the client before he goes home.
Angie Okay, I’ll get on to it straight away.
Matt Great. When you’re doing it see if you can work out how to include a video clip. We don’t actually need it for this one, but it would be nice. Do you think there’s time?
Angie Well I’ll finish what we definitely need for the client first and then look at the video thing if there’s time.
Matt Great. It’ll be so useful for other presentations if we can take the time to learn about it now. Tell you what, you get on with that and I’ll make the coffees this afternoon.

Here we can see that in addition to passing on an instruction and inviting my team member to perform I am also looking to see if I can let the opportunity double up into a learning and enjoyment experience too. This won’t always be possible of course, some deadlines are just too fearsome, but it’s surprising just how many opportunities there are to coach, once we raise our awareness of them.

These posts have been about establishing that the time for coaching is now. Most situations at work are a coaching opportunity either at the time or when a crisis has passed, we just need to look. At the risk of repeating myself, I want to stress again that it is not only problem situations at work that provide coaching opportunities. What would happen if we started playing to strengths? Is it best for the team and the business for everyone to be an identikit employee with the same skill profile or should we use coaching to create unique profiles?

There’s been much talk in HR circles in recent years about the need for businesses to become learning organizations. There are many facets to learning organizations but management style is undoubtedly a foundation stone. We can use coaching to establish that learning can happen alongside the need to perform and achieve results. We can use coaching to illustrate that learning and performing are not mutually exclusive.

It has been said that high performers are simply those individuals that learn faster. If this is true it further strengthens the need for the coaching approach as we can readily see the business benefits that accrue for accelerating the process of learning from our work.

Coaching is about having the experience and learning from the experience. When we can make the experience enjoyable too we have a potent cocktail for sustainable high performance. Coaching is about moving forward; taking the next step. It is useful in virtually all aspects of working life. Its limitations are only those in the mind of the coaching manager. What internal interference do you experience when you consider the uses of coaching in your organization?

A conversation to build on strengths

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Questions

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A conversation to build on strengths

A conversation to build on strengths

In the previous three posts we saw that Ed had problems coping with nerves, Ringo had problems with delegation and Nat had problems adapting to change. I’ve fallen for the same trap I warned you of earlier. I am focusing too much on coaching as a means of restoring performance not developing performance or building on strengths. Let’s look at that now.

Curtis runs a small consultancy business providing a range of support and training for owners and managers of small to medium enterprises (SMEs). Late last year he employed Elaine as a personal assistant. Elaine has a wealth of experience and had a good career with one of the large oil companies before leaving to have a family. Recently Elaine has been taking a real interest in helping Curtis build the business and has been accompanying him to client meetings. She has also been researching – on her own initiative – ways they could use technology and the internet in the business. They are having their customary morning coffee.

Elaine I notice that your due to see Johnston technologies this afternoon
Curtis Yes, that’s right. I could do without it to be honest, we’ve that much on already.
Elaine I could go.
Curtis Ok, Let’s talk that through. What do you think you should aim to get from the meeting?
Elaine To get him to sign up for the 3 month support package!
Curtis Well that would be nice as a sort of maximum, but what would be the minimum you’d want to achieve?
Elaine Err. I suppose if I left just having made a good impression and with his agreement to continue meeting with us that would be something.
Curtis Yes. It would. Expecting to get a sale every meeting perhaps creates too much pressure.

We have the makings of a good set of aims

Curtis What have you noticed about the meetings you’ve attended with me?
Elaine Well don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you can be a bit too soft sometimes. I’m not sure you always spot that they’re ready to buy
Curtis Really? What do you notice that I don’t?
Elaine It’s often in the body language. I see them leaning forward and maintaining eye contact for longer. It also seems to me that their questions are about what happens when the package of support is drawing to a close. That has to be a buying signal.
Curtis You’re right Elaine and I think you might have a real talent for this.

Reality has been explored and it’s clear that the aim remains viable without the need for deep reflection.

Curtis So how will you play it this afternoon Elaine?
Elaine Well I could take our brochure, but I’m not sure he’s ready for all that detail. I was thinking that I’d have it with me but just get him talking about his business at first and look for signs that we can help. I also wondered about seeing if he’d like to help us trial the member’s area of the website.

We can leave them to it now and Elaine is clearly thinking well and generating her own options without too much prompting from Curtis. All that remains is to decide which options to choose as the way forward and for Elaine to give it her best shot at the client meeting.

Someone in Elaine’s position is a joy to coach as they are showing so much responsibility and initiative anyway, but we still need to make sure that everything has been thought through.

Curtis has shown good coaching skills in that he has not over-coached by asking Elaine too many questions, and he has not let his ego get in the way when she was explaining that she noticed him missing sales opportunities. As a businessman Curtis realises that Elaine has skills and assets that he can really benefit from if he cultivates them in the right way.

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.