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Coaching Clinic Lesson # 3: Beginning to Coach

The third in a monthly series of 11 posts.

You’re clear about the purposes of coaching. If not, refresh your understanding by reading my May blog here.

You’re mindful about preparing yourself to coach. If you need a reminder, read my June blog here.

Now you’re ready to begin to coach by identifying who you will coach, and how you will approach each person.

Integration not technique

But first, here’s a point to ponder: If you’re like me, coaching will become an interaction approach across your lifetime, not simply a set of techniques reserved for structured work conversations.

That means you will end up coaching a lot of your friends, acquaintances, parents, siblings and colleagues, in spontaneous settings, about a wide spectrum of issues and concerns, over many years. The more skilled you are, the less others will detect or “feel” that they are being “coached.”

Seen in this integrated way, “coaching” becomes a synonym for “relating.” It becomes less important to name what you are doing – you just do it. With practice, it’s possible to coach in a way that does not emit superiority or arrogance. Instead, others will pick up on your interest, neutral curiosity, sharp questions and calm presence.

Once you attain a decent level of confidence and skill at coaching, you will use it everywhere.

Coaching in a business setting

When coaching is applied by business leaders it becomes a leadership formation process, often delivering career-changing (if not life-changing) results.

Yet not all bosses are competent coaches; many simply tell others what to do. A directive manager or leader should consider participating in a coaching development program, focusing on the steps outlined in this blog.

For those who are ready, I’ll now discuss how to get started as a coach.

There are three “getting started” steps.

First, consider and record who reports to you, and who else wants you to coach them. Depending on the size of your organization, and your scope of responsibility, that might be one person, or as many as ten.

Think about who you’re coaching

Step Two is a reflection exercise: For each person you identify in Step One, ask yourself four questions:

1. What is your current level of connection with this individual, on a scale of 1-10, with “1” signifying “no connection” and “10” signifying “ideal connection?” (We’ll directly discuss connection later in this blog series).

2. What specific performance challenges does this person currently face?

3. What relationships seem difficult for this person to manage well?

4. What might prevent you from effectively coaching this person?

Recording responses to these questions will expand your thinking about each individual, their challenges, and how you might be helpful to them. Doing this reflection ahead of time prepares you for Step Three.

The first meeting: desire to help and readiness

Step Three is an exploratory meeting the coach initiates with each individual to discuss the potential benefits of a coaching relationship, and to assess the coachee’s readiness and willingness to engage in the process.

Here’s how you might communicate helpfulness and assess readiness:

Communicating desire to help: The coach shares his/her thinking about the coaching process. There are many ways to do this. Here’s a sample opener:

“I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I might be more helpful to you as a coach, and want to explore that possibility with you. I would like to establish a monthly coaching meeting, where you and I would have the opportunity to discuss any non-project-related issue or challenge that’s on your mind. The goals of the session would be to strengthen our relationship and increase clarity surrounding the issues you bring up.”

Assessing Readiness: The coach discusses the readiness and willingness of each person to take responsibility for working on his or her development and improvement. This can be referred to as “coachability.”

Coachability specifics

Exploring coachability happens at the beginning stages of coaching. Importantly, it can be broached anytime the coachee displays:

  • Weak interest in growing as a professional, as a leader, or as a person

  • Weak interest in taking responsibility for their part in a problem or situation.

  • Weak interest in observing and managing self

  • Appearing more interested in being proven right than in learning something new

  • Weak responsibility for seeking, scheduling and preparing for coaching sessions.

Coachability discussions reduce the possibility that coaches will end up wasting time trying to stuff value into unmotivated individuals.An astute coach will view low coachee motivation as a coaching opportunity!

The “getting started” strategies outlined in this blog set the stage for a high-gain, mutually-satisfying coaching relationship at work. When coaches gain confidence and competence in their craft at work, the same skills can be applied in personal relationships.

Once the groundwork is laid, the coach is poised to explore the “live” issues of those they seek to help.

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