How to coach your way to a successful future

How to coach your way to a successful future

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In our increasingly complex world, business expectations, needs, and demands are evolving faster than ever before. Organisations need to solve complex problems across chaotic, diverse and widely-spread systems. Often, they’re exploring unchartered territory, where time-honoured practices no longer apply.

If you’re someone who’s expecting artificial intelligence to solve our new-world problems, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Because, while computers can solve well-defined problems in a closed space, they’re not yet able to develop solutions for real-world problems with open boundaries. 

It’s no surprise then that in a recent paper, Deloitte said, “In the future of work, employers will need human beings to do what robots cannot.”

as long as there are problems, there will be jobs – and we’re not running out of problems. 

Entrepreneurial skills—and in particular complex problem-solving skills—will become one of the most valuable assets human workers have to offer. Because, as long as there are problems, there will be jobs – and we’re not running out of problems.

So, how do we develop these advanced problem-solving skills in ourselves and others? Well, believe it or not, the answer could lie in coaching.

When done well, coaching is a development process that improves an individual’s performance by focusing on the ‘here and now’ rather than the distant past or future. What’s more, it provides individuals with a greater capacity to solve complex problems down the line.

Think about it. When you teach someone, you are imparting your knowledge onto them. But, when you coach someone, you are helping them to solve their own problems.

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In that sense, coaching can be a great way to reduce over-dependancy on leaders and drive employee empowerment. Also, in situations where we don’t know the solution, coaching is a truly powerful tool.

In his Harvard Business Review article, Leadership That Gets Results, psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman says, “Coaching has a markedly positive impact on performance, culture and bottom line.”

According to The Human Capital Institute, coaching can also significantly improve employee engagement and productivity, and decrease absenteeism and turnover.

What’s more, in his paper, Driving Organisational Change with Internal Coaching Programs, neuroscientist David Rock says, ‘Training leaders to be internal coaches is a more scalable, sustainable and robust approach to driving change and improving performance than hiring external coaches.’

 Building a coaching culture makes clear business sense. But, unfortunately, in most organisations, it just doesn’t happen frequently or effectively enough.

So, how can we become better coaches and prepare for a future we cannot yet comprehend? Try following these six steps:

 1.     Pick the right time

Building a coaching culture makes clear business sense. But, unfortunately, in most organisations, it just doesn’t happen frequently or effectively enough. 

First, we must recognise when and when not to coach. This is just as important as learning how to coach. Neuroscientists have proven that, for feedback to be effective, the individual you’re giving it to needs to have asked for it, or at least be receptive to it. So, start building a coaching culture now by encouraging the people you work with to proactively ask for feedback.

If you’re in a situation where you need to initiative a coaching conversation, ask yourself, is this a good time? Use your emotional intelligence to grasp whether the other person would be open to a conversation right now. You could say, “I want to help you with XYZ, do you mind if I offer you some advice/feedback/coaching?’ Be prepared. The other person may say no. If the coaching is imperative, but it’s not the right time, agree to have a conversation on a better day.

2.     Initiate a coaching conversation

You don’t have to be a leader or manager to coach. You can use coaching techniques on peers, co-workers or even supervisors. Coaching helps you to engage others, regardless of title or rank, and guide them to solve problems and develop themselves. Also, coaching should be an informal activity, something that you do in less than ten minutes every day. The coaching conversation can start with a basic initiation. You could simply ask the individual what’s on their mind. This will help you to break the ice and get the conversation flowing.

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 3.     Use the GROW model

Once you’ve initiated the conversation, try to structure your discussion. The GROW model is a proven approach that enables you to help the coachee to find their own wisdom and come to their own conclusions.

Establish the Goal. Together, look at the behaviour that the coachee wants to change. Then, structure this change into an objective and key results. The objective is the person’s desired destination. Ask them, where do they need to go? Then, help them to measure their progress towards that objective. Ask them, how will they know when they’ve gotten there? Also, it’s a good idea to consider if the goal fits with their career and team objectives.

Examine Reality. Ask your coachee to describe their current reality. Don’t skip this vital step. Often, people give premature advice and try to solve a problem without fully considering the starting point. This can cause them to miss information that they need to reach their goal effectively. As they describe their current reality, the solution may start to emerge. Ask questions like:

  • What is happening now (what, who, when and how often)?
  • What is the effect or result of this?
  • Have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
  • Does this goal conflict with any other objectives?

Explore Options.This is where the coachee determines all of the possible options for reaching their objective. Help them to brainstorm as many good options as possible. Then, discuss these and help them to decide on the best ones. You can offer your own suggestions at this step. But let the individual offer their ideas first and let them do most of the talking. Try to guide them in the right direction, without making decisions for them. Ask questions like:

  • What else could you do?
  • What if this or that constraint was removed? Would that change things?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  •  What considerations will you use to weigh the options?
  • What do you need to stop doing to achieve this goal?
  • What obstacles stand in your way?
  • How can I help?

Establish Will. The individual should now have a good idea of how they can achieve their goal. The final step is to get them to commit to specific actions that move them towards their goal. This helps them to establish their will and boost their motivation. Ask questions like:

  •  What will you do now, and when? What else will you do?
  •  What could stop you moving forward? How will you overcome this?
  •  How can you keep yourself motivated?
  •  When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?

4.     Be empathetic

“Coaching has a markedly positive impact on performance, culture and bottom line.” 

Remember, when coaching, part of the outcome is to develop the person, not just complete the task. So, throughout the coaching process, it helps to be empathetic. As Professor Brené Brown says, ‘When you coach, you are creating a connection. Empathy fuels that connection.’ In her animated video, The Power of Empathy, Brown also says that, to truly show empathy, you need to take the other person’s perspective and recognise it as the truth. It’s about staying out of judgement, recognising emotion in the other person and being able to feel with them.

Sometimes, during a coaching conversation, a coachee may seem to pull away. This could be their brain’s natural response to negative emotion or perceived punishment. In these situations, apply David Rock’s SCARF model. It’s a great way to decrease perceived threats and increase the sense of reward when influencing and collaborating with others.

 5.     Follow up

No matter how useful a coaching session feels while it’s underway if it doesn’t lead to change, it hasn’t been successful. Don’t squander the important time you’ve both invested in coaching. Make sure you agree on a date to review progress. This will drive accountability and allow them to change their approach if the original plan isn’t working. After the meeting, write down some quick notes:

  • What actions were agreed?
  • What did you learn from the conversation?
  • What did the coachee learn from the conversation?
  • What key messages were reinforced?
  • What can you do to support the coachee’s development between now and the next catch up?

When you see signs of growth, be sure to give the coachee positive feedback. Most importantly, keep an open-door policy that encourages them to come to you with questions.

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 6.     Guide your own growth

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”. 

If you don’t have a coach, or if your coach is unavailable, try using these techniques on yourself. Self-coaching can help you to tap into your own inner wisdom and experiences to solve complex problems. But, to be successful and truly make progress, you’ll need to be extremely honest with yourself. If you can achieve that, self-coaching will soon become a vital part of your productivity toolbox. 

No matter what role you’re in, self-coaching is a fantastic way to build your self-awareness and self-reflection. Ultimately, this allows you to empower yourself to take charge of your problems and maintain a level of control over your own success.

While self-coaching can’t entirely replace a personal, professional or executive coach, it can add to the power of coaching you receive elsewhere. As Thomas Edison captured so brilliantly, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”.

Go ahead, build your coaching habit!

Don’t forget; coaching isn’t about rescuing or fixing the other person. It’s about helping them to help themselves. So, go ahead, build your coaching habit. Make it a natural part of every single day. Give less advice and ask more questions. Encourage creativity and exploration. And empower the people around you to unlock their full potential.

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