Building the coaching engagement:
In building a coaching relationship, first there is a foundation to set. It all has to do with establishing trust. Sitting down and learning together the information about the employee or person being coached – their story. Building processes of communication and interactions, commitments, ground rules, confidentiality. The relationship has to be built by both people: “What are you looking for? What do I need? How are we are we going to do this together?” Forge explicit agreements; there is no single more critical factor to a successful relationship – of any kind!!
All of this typically happens in the first several sessions of coaching. In the next couple, there is a process of co-creating a developing plan: What needs to be learned? What new skills to be gained, new behaviors to practice? What habits to build or break? What are an achievable number of specific, well-defined growth objectives? And what will success look like in each of them – by when? With all these pieces in place, it is time to shift into drive and engage the whole process – putting it into action. This where results are generated where the real value is created.
The coaching meeting
The fundamental building block of the coaching process is the coaching session, although the most important and valuable part of the coaching happens in between sessions – out on the playing field. Schedule a time to get together for the specific purpose of coaching and nothing else. It’s not about progress reports or day-to-day business dealings; it is strictly focused on your partnership in mutual success.
In order to be successful – especially given that you are not a coach by primary expertise, you must have a structure to the meeting – a recipe to follow. If you are only going to have an hour or hour and a half together, you need to accelerate the conversation to a fairly deep level and collaborative basis, fairly quickly. The place to start is with a “check-in”. A check-in is another ritual – like celebration. Its function is to create a relational and mind space appropriate for and conducive to what is intended to happen in that gathering: “Where are you at right now? What’s your state of mind? What is going on in your life currently about which you have significant emotions? What do you want to have happen here today?”
Then you facilitate the celebration of your coachee’s recent wins: “What are some successes you have had since we met last? What are some things you feel good about?” At this point congratulations and even applause are in order.
With these two first steps, you have gotten connected and co-created a context of success.
The container is now set, so to speak, for the technology of success to be employed. The next step is to have your coachee report on previous stretch actions and action commitments: “How did you do? What did you do? What did you learn? What didn’t you do? What got in the way, and how will you grow from that knowledge?”
And now The Work: here there is an opportunity in the coaching session during which you can dig together into whatever needs working on: “What’s the situation? What do you need to learn and do to succeed in it? What is your strategy going to be?”
Finally you create a new action list to move forward and check out: “What did you gain of value? What do you need? When are we going to meet next?”
It may well be that the last question is the most important. Every coaching session has to end with the firm knowledge that and when the next coaching meeting will occur. Being committed is crucially important. If you make appointments as a leader with your people to coach them, but cancel, miss or regularly reschedule meetings, it’s worse than not having committed to do it at all. It will destroy what trust there is. You have to make the coaching important – to care about it and for it – if you want your coachee to.
In the broader and longer view, one objective of coaching is to produce specific external results. The other purpose, perhaps more valuable, is to produce a better-built employee – with a sustainably expanded capacity to produce results better and faster – evoking enhanced performance and execution.
This is a big deal for you as a leader; you are responsible for something happening in your area of responsibility to your company. So in the end, your job in the coaching process is to align your employee’s motivation to grow and do things with what a company needs to happen for its success. This is what it means to Lead by Coaching.