In my next few posts I want to concentrate on the practicalities of scheduling and running coaching sessions or conducting coaching conversations. We need to consider what needs to happen before, during and after coaching to give us the best chance of achieving a successful outcome. These considerations range from the seemingly simple (though often frustratingly difficult) matter of booking an appropriate meeting room, to more complex and subtle concerns like handling emotion.
Before we do that though, I want to examine in a little more detail what precisely is meant by a coaching session. The term covers many different ways of providing a basis for coaching and we may sometimes need to decide which way is best. So let’s look at the options:
Scheduled v spontaneous. Is it best to have a coaching sessions pre-arranged and entered in the diaries or should we just invoke a coaching approach when the need arises? You’ll not be surprised when I say that there is no right answer, it depends on the needs of the situation and the people concerned. In a busy working environment scheduled sessions can be a good way to ensure time is ‘ring fenced’ to talk about long-term developmental matters; time that would otherwise be soaked up on day to day issues. On the other hand scheduled sessions can seem a bit heavy handed and our people might prefer to capture a moment and have a coaching conversation just before or just after a key incident.
Formal v informal. Similarly, do we sit people down and announce that coaching has commenced or do we just get on with it knowing that our intentions are sound? Much will depend on the relationship you have with your team. If you want to signal a deliberate change of pace or management style you may want to err on the side of more formal sessions. Where you have more established, trusting relationships you can pretty much slip into the coaching approach at will.
Separate v part of something else. Should coaching be a stand alone activity or weaved into some other business process such as appraisal? Once again, there is no hard a fast rule, but unless coaching is a natural part of the other discussion and you’re going to be talking about learning and improvement I think you’re better off doing it separately. It would be difficult for example to include coaching as part of a disciplinary meeting. The coaching would be better afterwards when the person concerned has had time to take in what they’re being told and choose (perhaps) to do something about it.
Requested v arranged. In the ideal world coaching would only happen when people requested it because this is most in keeping with the principle of responsibility. However most coaching in a work context needs to be arranged by the coach or the manager until it has taken root as a legitimate part of day to day business.
In depth v quick and dirty. Deciding whether to go into great detail or just have a quick conversation is a matter of time and appropriateness. Awareness, responsibility and trust can take time to establish, so where we can go in deep we should. On the other hand, let’s not dismiss how useful a quick conversation and a few judicious coaching questions can be.