Coaching to establish the Way Forward

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Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

This post is about committing to a way forward; the final stage in a series of coaching questions Next time we’ll move on to consider some core skills, starting with body language

way forwardSo we’ve created a destination point by establishing some Aims and we understand the extent of the journey because we’ve taken time to understand the current Reality. A pause for Reflection has enabled us to clarify our thinking and understanding and we’ve generated a number of Options.

Now it’s simply a question of deciding which option to choose, right?


Deciding which option to choose is pointless unless we actually take action. It’s like deciding to move to a nicer area but never phoning an estate agent or deciding to get fitter without changing our diet or exercise habits. Thought without action is just an idle dream.

This then is the point of the Way Forward questions. Our intention at this stage is to turn thought into action. The following questions will help

In relation to your issue:

  •  What exactly are you going to do?
  • When exactly are you going to do it?
  • Who needs to know?
  • How and when will you tell them?
  • What resources do you need?
  • How will you get them?
  • Will this take you towards your aims?
  • What do you need me to do?
  • What is your commitment to this course of action on a scale of 1-10?

You’ll need to be quite tough but encouraging at this stage as human nature seems to get us quite attached to the status quo, even when our current situation is causing problems and anxiety. Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t so the saying goes. Hence using the word ‘exactly’ in the first two questions. The idea is to encourage coachees to articulate detailed action steps; making a commitment to themselves first.

Sometimes, you might need to hold your tongue if you feel that an action step described at the Way Forward stage is over optimistic or just plain wrong. Sometimes it might be better to let your coachee try and fail. At least they’re moving and at least they’ll learn from the experience. Of course, if an action step is against the organization’s rules, illegal, harmful or unsafe, you’ll need to intervene, but you can at least explain to the coachee why a certain plan may not be possible. It’s these sorts of judgements that make coaching an art form and a skill and so much more than just reeling off a list of questions which anyone can do.

The final commitment question is a good way of clarifying the extent to which our coaching has been successful. A response of less than 10 can be followed by ‘What would have to change to make it a 10’ to throw light on where any blockages may still remain. Other useful questions include:

  • What’s the best thing you could be thinking to get what you want?
  • What’s the best thing you could be feeling to get what you want?
  • What could you delegate?
  • What could you start today?
  • What do you gain/lose by this action?
  • What have you learnt today?
Matt Somers

Matt Somers

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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