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.

About 

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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