Coaching, Let's Keep It Quick!
October 18, 2016
Quickly fix the problem yourself or invest in developing the skills and knowledge of your team? It's hard - as a manager - to resist the urge to 'just fix it already.' However, coaching has a remarkably positive impact on both performance and culture. Coaching is about unlocking the potential that lies within someone. It's about asking questions rather than offering answers. If all we do is supply the answers for others then they will never understand and grow. Your team will have zero chance of innovating and reaching its fullest potential.
There is a misconception that coaching takes a long time. Sure, it can take longer than fixing the problem or resolving the issue yourself, but it doesn't have to be a lengthy process. Coaching conversations can be done quickly. In fact some of the most effective coaching can be done in less than 10 minutes. People's attention spans are short and demands on our time are plentiful, so coaching with speed is often a necessity.
Here's a quick (geddit!) guide to coaching in 10 minutes or less:
- Don't offer advice. If you want to coach quickly then you need to ensure you have muzzled the biggest talker in the conversation - you! Our natural tendency is to share our advice and solve people's problems. We like to flex our intellect when in front of our team and that takes up lots of time. Want to coach quickly? Start every conversation knowing you're going to need to refrain from offering advice. You're going to speak less and listen more! Your role is to ask questions. Ideally just questions.
- Get started quickly. Jump right in. Rip the band aid off and get straight to the point. A great opening question could be something like "What's on your mind?" This question leapfrogs the often unnecessary small issues and takes you right to the important issues. Dive right to the issue at hand.
- Finish with purpose. Just like a joke you need to finish strong. If you want to coach quickly you will need to know how to finish your coaching conversations in a way that's meaningful. Coaching must facilitate learning to be effective so, you need to finish with a question that taps into the learning that has just occurred for the coachee. Questions like "What do you now know that you didn't know before?" "What should you do differently next time?" "What are you now aware of that you weren't before?" "What was most useful here for you?" These types of questions help the coachee find value in the conversation. You encourage them to vocalize the new insights they have discovered.
- Use a framework. Coaching is a fluid dance. You need to intently listen and ask questions that help increase awareness, but you need to do that within a framework to stay on track. Coaching has definite stages, and when you have a framework to dance within you'll find it easier to be efficient. A framework you may find useful is the "What? So What? Now What?"
The 'What' stage is designed to stimulate thinking about what significant experiences the coachee may have gone through. In this stage all questions you ask would start with 'What'.
- What's on your mind?
- What was significant for you this week?
- What has been your most significant achievement with this project so far?
- What key milestones have been achieved?
- What is your biggest hurdle?
- What is causing you to not achieve the results you would like?
The 'So, what' stage encourages the coachee to look at what the meaning and importance of an issue or experience they are facing. The questions you ask in this stage build on what's been offered to deepen the learning; in this stage all questions you ask would start with 'So, what'.
- So, what was important about that?
- So, what did you learn?
- So, what was significant about that?
- So, what are the options?
- So, what do you need to do?
- So, what's preventing you from taking that step?
The 'Now, what' stage helps the coachee look forward. Based on the new insights they have uncovered in the conversation so far, you now focus on what they would like to change or do in order to move toward their goal; in this stage all questions you ask would start with 'Now, what'.
- Now, what was most useful here for you?
- Now, what are you willing to do differently?
- Now, what are you aware of that you weren't before?
- Now, what changes are you going to make?
- Now, what area are you going to keep an eye on?
If you want to help your team grow both individually - and as a whole - you need to invest in coaching them. Coaching should be a key component of your growth strategy. But, in a busy world where the email inbox pings incessantly, meetings are scheduled, and rescheduled, before you can blink and where your boss is pilling on more work on your desk, coaching can't just be another thing just on your to-do list. Coaching should be integrated into how you conduct your daily interactions with your team. As you have just witnessed, with the right intentions and framework, you can coach in less than 10 minutes and help develop your team. Coaching can be quick and still produce exceptional results.