Sunday, May 20, 2012
Coach Me! Coach Me!
Whether you are an HR professional, a peer, a mentor or a coach, you need the basic tools to begin to assist another person. If you are an executive and just want to coach your direct reports or employees to improve their performance, the same rules apply. Use these tools to get any coaching or mentoring relationship off the starting block. IMPROVEMENT As irrational as it may sound, not every person who seeks coaching wants to improve his situation. Some are trying to get out of a role or company and just want to be coached as to how to do this. Others have a solemn belief that no improvement is possible, that “people are the way they are”. If you do not quickly understand this about your coachee, you may end up at odds because you intend improvement while he intends to leave or go through a fruitless exercise. Nothing is more important than setting up the relationship with aligned purposes. To begin, ask your coachee his goals for coaching by finding out what end state he desires. Then, pull off any false veneer of “playing along” with coaching by asking the questions below: Is there anything about your current role that you do not like? If so, what? What area of your job causes you the most stress? If you could leave to go do anything else, what would you do? Is there anything about your role which makes you feel old or tired? Are there any reasons why you would want to give up? Do you believe people can change for the better? Have you ever seen someone improve in any area? What was it? Get several answers for each of the above questions. These questions are food for a discussion, not just short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. If the person mentions any fact or situation which is fascinating, confusing or worth discussing, ask further about it until it is perfectly clear. Take the role of detective in understanding the situation and goals of your coachee. When you are certain he would like improvement, not to leave or follow some other purpose, continue with the Help section below. HELP Clearly, a main role of the coach is to help the recipient, to be a sounding board, a stable source of guidance and a font of wisdom. But not everyone is open to accepting help from a coach. This is easy to understand for those who have been to a dentist or a doctor and had a painful experience. We go in to the doctor, relieved to get help for our illness or our toothache, and end up with a needle in our backside or our jaw, followed by a painful procedure or two, and some follow-up medication. As helpful the intervention is in solving the condition, it never sets us up to love the idea of help. Years later, we see people avoiding the doctor even when a condition has become serious. We often get the idea that help involves a little bit, or a great deal, of pain. This is the view on help that you might find your coachee (or even yourself) sitting in. Thus, the job of a coach is to get the coachee ready and willing to receive the help of a coach. Poke around about his reactions to help. Ask the following questions to start discussion: What types of help has he or she received before? Was any of the help bad help? Any good help? What happened? What does help consist of in his mind? Has he ever been coached before? How did it go? Was the coach helpful? Who has helped him most in life? Least? Describe the ideal type of help. This is a good time to check for experiences similar to coaching but not called “coaching”, such as having a mentor. Ask the following questions and get complete answers: Has the person had a mentor? Used a consultant? Anything similar to a coach? If yes to any, find out whether this helped or not. What types of experiences does he or she associate with coaching? Were those good experiences or bad experiences? Does he believe coaching could work? Is it possible that it could help? Give an example of how coaching might help someone. Give an example of when you have seen someone receive help. Please note, this set of questions could take as long as several hours, but minimally will take about 30-45 minutes. After digging in deeply to find the answers to these questions, and if the person is ready and willing to receive some help, move into a discussion on control. The next step in developing a coaching relationship is to come to an agreement about who is in control in the coaching relationship. Control is another dirty word in the workplace, second only to help. Sit any person down and tell him you are going to control him and he will likely leap from the chair and run from the room, possibly screaming. And yet, to have a successful coaching relationship, someone has to control the flow of the development plan, and the most likely candidate is the coach, not the coachee. So to have a successful relationship, a coach must help his coachee come to terms with the fact that the coach will control him and the process. To get the subject of control under control, the coach can ask the coachee the following questions: When you hear “control” what do you think of? Have you had any bad experiences with control? What happened? Have you had a good experience with control? How do you like to be controlled? How do you dislike being controlled? Is control ever a good thing? Give an example. Next, spend a few minutes asking the coachee to do various tasks, such as hand over his pen, get up from his chair, or bring you a glass of water. They should be simple tasks, but he should be willing to do them with no questions asked. This is a minimum threshold for control to start a coaching relationship. The control exercises are similar to the ones on help. They should take a minimum of 30 - 45 minutes and could go as long as several hours. Dig deeply to find areas where the person was controlled badly or the control was harmful. These experiences are likely to get in the way of coaching unless you uncover them and bring them to light. If you manage to dig in deep enough, you will get to a point where the coachee trusts you to control him, knowing that control can be a positive influence. After all, if you were operating your phone and didn’t control it, you wouldn’t make many calls, would you? You would likely end up with a broken phone. You can mention this to him to make a point about control. If you have completed these three major steps, you now have a person ready to be coached. The next step is to write down goals and create a development plan. This will be covered in another article.