Introduction to Coaching

“In an introduction to coaching post, it’s not normal to hear the writer complain about coaching itself. The term “coach” is extremely overused and abused. There are various bodies of accreditation to attempt to have a minimum level of standard, but sometimes it’s not always possible. There are some fantastic coaches out there, but there are also some that have room for improvement.

This post introduces the basic concepts for Coaching. It does not pretend to be a fully fledged guide to coaching nor a checklist on how to be a good coach.

Google’s Project Oxygen identified behaviours great managers have there. They compiled data from employee surveys and performance reviews then their people analytics team identified eight key behaviors demonstrated by the company’s most effective managers. Number one was…

A good manager: Is a good coach

So if it’s so important, what is coaching exactly?

There are many webs out there dedicated to coaching, however recently I read a chapter from Jo Owen’s excellent “How to Lead” and I really enjoyed it. For me, his explanation was no-nonsense, straight to the point and 100% relevant. Here I’ll summarise the best bits to introduce coaching.

What is coaching?

The essence of coaching is to enable someone to work through a challenge, find a solution and act on it
Coaching is not about giving someone feedback nor telling them what you think the solution is. In general, when someone comes up with a solution, they “own” it. They are more committed to it, more like to act on it and learn from it.

Coaching events and journeys

These are 2 different concepts that make up coaching. The event is when the person asks for help and forms part of a longer-term journey. The journey can be considered the growth and progress that the person will hope to make over a longer period of time.
To breakdown a coaching event, Owen uses 5 O’s to define it.

  • Objectives – as the coach, be clear about what you want to achieve. If you want someone to do something, don’t try to coach them, tell them. Help them arrive at the causes of the problems rather than just the symptoms. Help them state their objective and why they are looking for help.
  • Overview – allow the coachee (person who is being coached) to explain the situation. Let them be heard, even if they may have a flawed view. Help them think of the same issue from another perspective.
  • Options – you should help the coachee explore a range of options, not tell them what he/she should do. Help them look towards the future and not dwell on the past problems that have caused them to arrive at this situation.
  • Obstacles – this is the reality check and the coach should help the coachee identify and prepare for the challenges that he/she will face.
  • Outcomes – get the coachee to summarise what has been learnt and what the actions are.

While coaching someone it is important to try to maximize the use of open questions. This is when there is no “yes/no” answer. You make the person think that little bit more.

The journey

To stop the coaching sessions becoming random events helping people solve random problems, the coach should establish a structure with the person being coached. What are the needs and opportunities are (the start) and how the coachee wants to improve over the next fixed timeframe (the ending). Organizing the journey and setting the goals mean that the individual sessions can have smaller goals:

  1. Immediate challenges – what are they and how best to deal with them
  2. Review progress – this is done against the overall goal of the journey. “Where am I?”. Review situations when the coachee has had to apply the skill you are working on improving, what has been learnt?
  3. Retrospective – since the last time you were together, what has went well and what has went less well? This helps the coachee become more self-aware and allows them to begin coaching themselves.

These three goals are especially important for those who work with teams. Professional coaches may not elaborate as much on the second and third goals but as a team leader, you want to help the team members progress. It is in everyone’s interest.

In a future post, Manu López will elaborate on coaching teams, rather than the individuals.

Think you can coach now?
The previous points are meant as an introduction in a straight forward way. It is to provide a context and help with basic understanding of coaching. Anyone who is a manager, team lead, responsible for people or simply interested in helping others grow, has to be able to coach. Afterall, Google says so…

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