Coaching Teams

Coaching Teams

Over the last couple of years, I have become increasingly involved in coaching teams in addition to 1-1 coaching work with people, and become more interested in the range of approaches to work effectively with Teams. I have also reflected that whilst certain principles seem to work, there are a number of different ways to go about the work; what works with one team often doesn’t work with another.

Chuck & Cindy describe team coaching as “an individual and team development process that uses an integrated combination of interventions to improve collaborative leadership skills, and team performance.”

Essentially, Team Coaching works with the Team as a system as opposed to a collection of individuals, and is an ongoing process to sustain change over time as opposed to a one off Team building event. I have increasing concerns about the idea of a “fix it all in one day” approach to team building, as time and time again the question of sustaining actions and behaviours agreed by the team at the initial day requires an ongoing level of reflection and time out from the team.

Team coaching helps people understand how to work better with others. It’s an effective method for showing teams how to reduce conflict and improve their working relationships. There are some Team coaching interventions that primarily focus on the interactions and working relationships: the way people act with their teammates, and the way they communicate with one another – these are important drivers of effective team performance. However, there are others that stress the need to start with clarifying the primary purpose of the team, its goals and objectives, and the role of the people in the team before looking at team dynamics and relationships.

Agreeing the metrics and assessment for the programme

My approach would be to ensure a strong level of alignment with organisational vision and strategy, and how the Team is planning to work towards that.  This makes the intervention easier to measure. Approaches I have used with Team coaching has been to re-visit the purpose and vision of the Team, and if necessary support the Team to create a Team Plan with objectives in the areas of strategy, finance, marketing, working with external stakeholders etc. It obviously depends on what the stated need of the Team is, but getting the team to focus  on some basic functions of the team is often important.

It is vital to include the “softer skills” development areas of the team such as improved team work and morale, enhanced communication skills or increased engagement from staff within the wider team (especially if the team being coached is a Leadership Team).

As far as the metrics for the Team coaching are concerned these may include areas such as:

  • Development of key leadership skills across the team
  • Improvement in relationships & increased trust
  • A sense of shared/common issues
  • Assessing how the coaching has provided a vehicle for culture change
  • The amount of time spent on “real/pressing” issues
  • Creation of  approaches to sustainability, such as long-term peer coaching

It is usually helpful to have a combination of team based task objectives and working relationships/team dynamics

Team Coaching Models

Most of the models I have researched and my own practise has covered some or all of the main steps listed below, and the diagram above is my suggested approach. These steps are indicative and not all steps are mandatory or sequential, depending on the needs of the Team.

Foundation

Establish the foundation for the initiative; strategic objectives, nature of team dynamics, timeline

Diagnostic approaches

  • Often initial 1-1 confidential meetings with Team members to find out what works well about the team, what doesn’t and why; to establish their ideas on approaches that will work, and how they could be measured
  • Going into a Team development initiative of any kind without these having the opportunity to engage with the team is very hard

In terms of “diagnostic assessment” approaches, personality and behaviour assessments like Insights are good tools for improving a team’s understanding of its own dynamics, and they give team members a better understanding of why they react to their colleagues in certain ways. This new understanding helps them think about how they can relate to one another more effectively, at the same time that it breeds tolerance by helping people understand that different approaches may be valid in different situations.

360 reviews of team members is also a potentially useful starting point to help people understand themselves and how they work with others.

“Kick off”

  • Focus on the wider organisational aspect, as well as the team challenge
  • Create Team contract, including the metrics and assessment for the programme (individual and team)
  • Determine areas of focus and commitment for the sessions

Ongoing Coaching sessions

  • Group size – 6 to 8 is the ideal size for a team, with a maximum of around 11/12
  • Frequency – around once monthly
  • Duration – often around 6  months, though can be shorter or longer
  • Decision on how to run the sessions in terms of level of formality. Action Learning set approach focuses on improving questioning and reflection of team members and is proven to be a quick trust builder, but some sessions may be more formal than others, where a Coaching tool is used, like Insights or Belbin, or a Team Coaching wheel

What happens between sessions

  • Individuals often receive 1-1 coaching support  in between sessions
  • A sustainable way of encouraging ongoing coaching support is through peer coaching which helps keep focus between sessions, and accountability developed with peers
  • Members of the team are encouraged to exchange with direct reports and gain feedback
Assessment and sustainability
  • Its important to review the “distance traveled” of the Team coaching project for the whole Team and the individuals in it, and the strongest way to do this is to repeat the baseline assessment, whether its a 360 or psychometric
  • Its important to look at ways beyond the Team Coaching project that the reflective practice of the Team is sustained; e.g. regular reviews using Learning set principles, ongoing peer coaching

Example approaches

Creating Team values

360 reviews

Psychometrics

A quick and innovative free  approach to Myers Briggs personality types

Traffic Light Model

Liz Scott recommends a traffic light model. If you want team members to give each other supportive and enlightening feedback then this is a great tool to use. “Feedback,” if given inappropriately can be incredibly damaging. It can seem like a personal attack. This can cause a defensive reaction and counter attack in return. However when a team is in a supportive frame of mind, team feedback is invaluable. It will deepen trust and develop support.

Spend some time developing the team dynamics before using the traffic light feedback model. The team often benefits from having a whole day working together.

Each team member is requested to both give feedback and to receive feedback. The feedback is facilitated by the coach. It’s also wise for the coach to take notes during the process.

This feedback process works best with small teams (six or fewer).

Each team member takes in turn on the ‘hot seat’. They cannot say anything, ask anything (unless they haven’t heard the comment) on any of the feedback they receive.

Once on the hot seat they listen to each team member giving feedback. The feedback is around what the team would like the person in the hot seat to ‘stop, start and continue’ doing.

The team member gets off the ‘hot seat’ and another team member takes their place.

The process of the traffic-light team coaching model

  1. Give each team member a post-it
  2. Write on the flip chart.

  Stop

  Start

  Continue

  1. Explain that in a moment each member of the team will sit on the ‘hot seat’ (put a seat out at the front of the room).
  2. The rest of the team will then take in turns to say one thing they would like this team member to ‘start, stop and continue’ doing.
  3. Once on the ‘hot seat’ that team member will listen to the feedback (without comment).
  4. Ask the team to look around the room and on each post-it to start jotting down things they would like each member of the team to ‘stop, start and continue’ doing.
  5. It’s likely that this will cause discomfort to some of the team members. I always say that the feedback that they give is not ‘the truth’ it is just a perception. The person on the receiving end can choose to ignore or take on board the feedback.
  6. Give the team 5 minutes to jot down some ideas.
  7. Ask the first volunteer to take the ‘hot-seat’
  8. As facilitator take notes to record the comments as part of your notes

Powerful Coaching questions

Powerful Coaching questions

It seems axiomatic that as Coaches we need to ask powerful questions that really stretch clients and get them to self-reflect and take responsibility for follow through. At a recent Coaching Learning set, Coaches were asking about “really good questions” in their coaching practice as well as the capacity for deep listening and reflection skills. I am a bit ambivalent in a way about the idea of “killer questions” or great questions as so much of coaching work is situational: you need to be able to react in the moment with the client. However, some forward thinking and reflection on how we use questions as a Coach is probably a good thing to do and to think about before a session.

Its also important to reflect on what we do with client’s responses; that is, how we go about really listening to what they have said. I have written an in-depth article on effective listening, that covers things like Scharmer’s 4 types of listening (from downloading through to generative listening) along with the complex skill of reflecting and paraphrasing back to the client at periodic intervals: this offers a synthesis of what they have said to prove understanding and give them the chance to hear back what they have articulated.

My personal favourite questions are ones like scale questions (to test out willingness to change/follow through and often on a scale of 1-10), the “can you tell me more about that?” that opens the clients experience up more, “what was the most helpful thing from today?” and “what would you like me to do differently” questions at the end of a session and “what would a good friend say to you?” about a challenge. The ability to use silence is also important as it gives people the chance to process the discussion, and generate new ideas.

Here are a few different types of questions and approaches:

1.    Coaching with metaphor questions

I’m a big fan of using metaphors in coaching, as long as the client is open to this approach and likes using images and metaphors. The article written by Angela Dunbar on coaching with metaphor is a good read. As a tool for coaching, the client’s metaphors give you an insight into their unique perception of their situation and their goals. When the client tells you that they can “see light at the end of the tunnel”, that is what they are experiencing. There is light for them, and they are in a tunnel.

With practice, the flow of questions can come very naturally. As an example, for the client who sees light at the end of the tunnel, you might ask: “And when you see light at the end of the tunnel, what would you like to have happen?” It might sound obvious to ask this, but we are all unique and some people may be afraid of the light, be happy to stay in the tunnel, or want to turn around and go the other way. Never assume you know what the client may want. The client could answer with: “I want to get out of the tunnel and be in the light” OK, it’s a clear goal. Stay with it and find out more about the outcome. Let the client get a real sense of how it would be to achieve their outcome.

“And when you get out of the tunnel, and you can be in the light, is there anything else about that light? “They may tell you it’s warm, or bright or whatever. They are developing their sense of what it would be like. “And when you can be in the light, what kind of ‘you’ is that ‘you’?” The descriptions they give may highlight other metaphors or feelings, which you can continue to explore.

“I feel relieved, like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders”. “What kind of lifted is that lifted?” or “When you feel relieved, whereabouts do you feel relieved?” (all feelings have a location somewhere, within or for some, even just outside their bodies) or “What kind of weight is that weight?”

Once the outcome has been really explored, generally you will be able to see/sense/notice that the client is ‘connected’ to a change the metaphor question has helped to prompt.

 

2.    A useful sequence of questions in coaching

A sequence of questions are typically situation specific, but there are times where it’s useful to think about related questions that help move the client forward, such as:

  • What’s the issue?
    • What makes it important NOW?
    • How important is it on a 1-10 scale?
    • How much energy do you have for a solution on a scale of 1-10?
    • Who owns the issue?
    • What have you tried already?
    • In an ideal world what would be happening around this issue? How would you know that it had been resolved?
    • What’s standing in the way of that ideal outcome?
    • What’s going right here – even if it’s only a bit?
    • Imagine you are at your most resourceful, what do you say to yourself about this issue?
    • What are the options for action here?
    • What criteria will you use to judge the options?
    • Which option seems the best one against those criteria?
    • So, what’s the next step?
    • When will you take it?
    • What will get in the way of you taking it?
    • So, when will you take it?

 

3.    The good old GROW model!

I know it seems a bit old hat these days to go back to the simplicity of the “GROW” model, but there are still useful sequential elements to working through the different stages of the model and the type of questions in each of them, such as:

Goals –

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What will that enable you to do, that you can’t do today?
  • What are the expectations of others?
  • Who else needs to know about the plan? How will you inform them?

Reality –

  • What is the reality of the current situation?
  • What’s stopped you reaching this goal already?
  • What are the real barriers and what are the assumptions?
  • Do you know anyone who has achieved this goal?
  • What can you learn from them?

Options –

  • What are the options for you in this situation?
  • What could you do as a first step?
  • What else could you do?
  • What would happen if you did nothing?

Will –

  • Where does this goal fit in with your personal priorities at the moment?
  • What obstacles do you expect to meet? How will you overcome them?
  • How committed are you to this goal? 1(not at all) – 10 (100% motivated)?
  • What steps do you need to take to achieve this?

 

4. Questions for clients with different challenges

I think these sorts of questions come into play when working with clients with specific challenges. One of the approaches I often use when working with clients thinking about career change are around reviewing their career to date, and what learning they have gained about positive and challenging experiences:

  • Have you focussed work in any particular sectors, or in a particular area of work? If so, does this feel like a positive or a negative?
  • How much of the work has been managerial, and/or project focussed without supervision? Have you enjoyed this aspect?
  • Are there any themes that emerge for you in “pressing the rewind button” that you can use as threads for looking forward to your next career move (e.g. autonomy, working in a team)?
  • What is your overriding feeling about your career to date and the direction it has taken?

Another area which is potentially a bit more contentious in the field of coaching might be where you are working with a client who has self-confidence issues. Some of this could potentially relate to their early year development. As a Coach you might use the “autobiography” approach to understand the historical context of the lack of confidence; where it originated. Relationships with authority figures and peers evolve from our relationships with our parents and parent-figures such as Teachers. This is a key aspect of relationships at work-it will have a fundamental effect on approaches to work and a Coach may need to have some glimmering of understanding about this as the client sees it.

You will not need to ask all these questions, but these are some useful ones.There is always the warning in the autobiography approach that coaching isn’t psychotherapy and shouldn’t dwell too long on the past:

  • What was your place in the family; birth order?
  • What effect has your birth order had on you: e.g. the experience of being an only child?
  • How did you feel about school?
  • How do you get on with your siblings?
  • What effect has marriage/partners relationships had on your life?
  • (For clients with children) what has the experience of being a parent done?
  • What did the experiences of higher education do for you?
  • How did you make your career choices? What helped you decide to move on from earlier jobs?
  • What themes and patterns do you see emerging from the story as you have told it? What are the links to Coaching we will be doing? (not all clients see links; if so that’s fine, just move on)

5. Solutions based coaching questions

Solutions focused questions can be a really effective way of moving a client towards a solution rather than dwelling on the issue or the causes of the problem, and sometimes a client can reach a solution in a very short period of time if you take this approach.

Here are some examples comparing problem focused questions with their solutions focused alternatives:

Problem focused: What is the problem?
Solutions focused: What would you like to achieve from this session?

Problem focused: What is hindering you?
Solutions Focused: What progress have you made so far?

Problem focused: How long have you been experiencing difficulties?
Solutions focused: When in the past have you achieved a positive outcome?

 

Reflections

There are a multitude of questions that can be used in coaching, and these are just a few examples. Ultimately it feels important to stay curious as a Coach, and know that powerful questions do help clients connect to what they are feeling and move them towards resolution.

I’m not sure there are any magic questions (although this Coaching questions suggests there is!), but it always helps to think about what questions you might ask a client before the session, in the session itself, or reflecting after the session thinking about the next one to come.

Effective listening skills

Effective listening skills

 

I find it amazing in the modern world, where we have developed so far in technology, our understanding of history, and our sophisticated approach to communication and modern approaches to learning, that so many people still appear not to know how to listen well. Think about the last 2 or 3 social engagements you have been to, and whether you felt listened to, or even the last 1-1 with a friend or colleague. Depending on the study being quoted, we remember a dismal 25-50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they only really hear 2½-5 minutes of the conversation!

Its interesting to reflect on whether listening is an intuitive skill, or something you can learn. I believe there is an element of both, but even if you aren’t a good natural listener, you can train yourself. The ability to hear is typically innate, but the ability to listen well is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced. Listening means paying attention and making a conscious effort to process what you hear. It is one of our most important skills and it is also one of the most overlooked. We often take our ability to listen for granted, even knowing that it plays a major role in good communication.

Nature has given us one tongue and two ears: the first ear is so we may listen to what the speaker says, and the other ear to listen to how the speaker says it.” Epicatus. 

Road blocks to listening

It’s true that there are several blocks to good listening, that we can all look at and acknowledge we are guilty of at times, perhaps when we are anxious, tired, or even that the person we are “listening” to is well…boring and long winded!

  • Comparing: “when that happened to me”
  • Mind reading: trying to guess what the other person is really thinking or feeling
  • Rehearsing: what you will say next
  • Judging: you don’t really listen because you have already made up your mind
  • Dreaming: only half listening because something that they have said triggers a memory for you
  • Advising: you are the great problem solver, searching for the solution to their problems
  • Derailing: changing the subject and taking the conversation off in another direction
  • Being right: you cannot hear the criticism, if someone is feeding something back to you that you don’t like. If you cannot admit mistakes, you cannot change…

Most people have some aware of the classic communication research carried out by Professor Mehrabian that 55% of communication is non verbal (your body language, gestures, expressions, how you stand or sit), 38% is vocal (tone and pitch of your voice, speed at which you speak), and only 7% verbal (the words you use).

The value of Mehrabian’s theory relates to communications where emotional content is significant, and the need to understand it properly is great. This is often applicable in management and business, where motivation and attitude have a crucial effect on outcomes, but also has wider application for all our approaches to listening, and being able to pick up cues (and “clues”!) from the speaker.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway

 

A listening theory

There are some really interesting ideas on listening from Otto Scharmer in his new book “Theory U; leading from the future as it emerges”. He describes 4 types of listening:

Listening 1: Downloading

“Yeah, I know that already.” He calls this type of listening “downloading”—listening by reconfirming habitual judgments. When you are in a situation where everything that happens confirms what you already know, you are listening by downloading.

Listening 2: Factual

“Ooh, look at that!” This type of listening is factual or object-focused: listening by paying attention to facts and to novel or disconfirming data. You focus on what differs from what you already know. Factual listening is the basic mode of good science. You let the data talk to you. You ask questions, and you pay careful attention to the responses you get.

Listening 3: Empathic

“Oh, yes, I know exactly how you feel.” This deeper level of listening is empathic listening. When we are engaged in real dialogue and paying careful attention, we can become aware of a profound shift in the place from which our listening originates. Sometimes, when we say “I know how you feel,” our emphasis is on a kind of mental or abstract knowing. But to really feel how another feels, we have to have an open heart. Only an open heart gives us the empathic capacity to connect directly with another person from within. When that happens, we feel a profound switch as we enter a new territory in the relationship; we forget about our own agenda and begin to see how the world appears through someone else’s eyes.

Listening 4: Generative

“I can’t express what I experience in words. My whole being has slowed down. I feel more quiet and present and more my real self. I am connected to something larger than myself.” This type of listening moves beyond the current field and connects us to an even deeper realm of emergence. He calls this level of listening “generative listening,” or listening from the emerging field of future possibility. This level of listening requires us to access not only our open heart, but also our open will: our capacity to connect to the highest future

Scharmer’s premise is that whilst there is usefulness in all 4 levels, that when you choose to listen from Level 3, empathetic listening, that your perspective is redirected to seeing the situation through the eyes of another, and Level 4 (generative listening) you realise that by the end of the conversation you are no longer the same person you were when it began. This may be an extreme aspiration, but why not? Occasionally, I have felt this both as a talker being listened to and grappling with something close to my heart and as a Coach listening to clients, and in some strange way, conscious of it happening at the time.

The bottom line is that listening is hard work! This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, to try and understand the total message being sent: you make a point of finding out what people think rather than making assumptions.  However, it’s also often true that people who’ve listened first tend to get listened to, when they speak.

 “An essential part of true listening is the discipline of setting aside ones own prejudices, frames of reference and desires, so as to experience the speakers world from the inside” Scott Peck

Following are some keys to listening well:

1. Give 100% Attention

Prove you care by suspending all other activities.

2. Respond

Responses can be both verbal and nonverbal (nods, expressing interest) but must prove you received the message, and more importantly, prove it had an impact on you. Speak at approximately the same energy level as the other person…then they’ll know they really got through and don’t have to keep repeating.

3. Prove understanding

To say “I understand” is not enough. People need some sort of evidence or proof of understanding. Prove your understanding by occasionally restating the gist of their idea or by asking a question which proves you know the main idea. The important point is not to repeat what they’ve said to prove you were listening, but to prove you understand. The difference in these two intentions transmits remarkably different messages when you are communicating.

4. Prove respect

Prove you take other views seriously. It seldom helps to tell people, “I appreciate your position” or “I know how you feel.” You have to prove it by being willing to communicate with others at their level of understanding and attitude. We do this naturally by adjusting our tone of vice, rate of speech and choice of words to show that we are trying to imagine being where they are at the moment.

Listening to and acknowledging other people may seem deceptively simple, but doing it well, particularly when disagreements arise, takes a combination of true talent, discipline and effort. As with any skill, listening well takes plenty of practice. It would be wonderful if more of the message of the usefulness and power of good listening could be spread…

How good a listener are you?

An interesting exercise called PERSONAL LISTENING HABITS ASSESSMENT here that you can complete, and talk through with someone to reflect on your listening skills, what you do well, and what you could improve.

My Coaching journey

My Coaching journey

The idea of this article came from talking to a good Coaching friend Annie Kimblin about the idea of writing a coaching book. We have got to a place where the book idea is in gestation and may or may not happen in the future. In the meantime, one of the areas we both had a particular interest in was reflecting on our Coaching journeys, how and why we have ended up as Coaches and how we can be the best we can possibly be in our work.

Professional background; a roundabout journey…

I talked to someone recently who had spent 35 years of their working life at Sainsbury’s and took me back to the early 1980s when I started out in my career. I started at Sainsbury’s as a raw and green Graduate Trainee after University not really having much of a clue as to what I wanted to do. Whilst its wasn’t for me as a company, I learnt about organisation skills, managing people, not to mention sheer hard work and a long hour’s culture. So much so that the next 2 years I spent traveling around the world, working in USA, New Zealand and Australia! I came back and did project management and marketing roles for British Telecom and Allied Dunbar, and then towards the end of my twenties, went into working in the voluntary sector, and a spell teaching in Further and Higher Education. Reflecting back, it’s what I would call an emergent approach, knowing that I liked working with and supporting people, but unsure where best these skills could be utilised.

After the hopping around in my twenties, my thirties brought some more focus, working in health promotion in the NHS at national and local level for a few years, until I joined a “Training and Enterprise Council” (TECs as they were known) to support all sorts of organisations through a national standard of good practice in developing people. I did this for the best part of 7 years as an Executive, Manager and ultimately Operations Director. On reflection it’s when things started to click for me, and I found at least the ball park area of work I wanted to work in; supporting people to become the best they can be but probably supporting people from outside an organisation on a freelance basis rather than internally.

Myself and my Co-Director set up in business in 2001: I have now been running Crowe Associates with Sally for nearly 19 years, and truly love what I do, a mixture of 1-1 and Team coaching and coaching training, along with some group facilitation. It’s not been a smooth planned journey and absolutely not incremental and linear, but I value the fact that I didn’t get stuck doing something that passed the time and paid the bills; work has always been a vocation for me, something I need to be passionate about. I also have a sense that with growing self-awareness, you find the career journey you need to be on; the changes come when you are ready for them, and not beforehand.

Becoming a Coach

Whilst I was a line Manager and Director I managed a lot of people and started to understand at least implicitly that I was involved in coaching them; learning that I wasn’t doing the actual work myself anymore and my role as a senior Manager was about enabling others to deliver.

Three years down the line from becoming freelance I signed up to do the Oxford Brookes post graduate Coaching and Mentoring course. This was a solid and well organised course heavy on coaching theory (with some underlying therapeutic theory) and a lot of reflective practice. We also had to find coaching clients to work with and have regular supervision practice as we found our feet as Coaches.

Since 2004, I think I have worked with well over 350 coaching clients and trained in excess of 200 Coaches to become in house Coaches supporting others in their organisations. There has been a wide range of challenges that people have come into coaching to work on; career change, building confidence in their leadership, work on resilience in ever changing organisational dynamics to name a few. I have also found that some clients have worked through a coaching programme over several months and developed but have needed a bit of “coaching top up” a year or two down the line.

My own philosophy of coaching practice is a holistic approach to coaching to enable clients to make desirable and beneficial changes in both their professional and personal lives that help them develop and grow. I believe that for any human endeavour to grow and flourish, there are a complex mix of psychological and practical factors that help sustain real change.

“Sharpening the saw”

Its fascinating looking at both the training and regulation of the coaching and psychotherapy sectors to see what a wide spectrum of accreditation approaches there are. It seems that a lot of people are able to call themselves professional Coaches, some without much in the way of training and qualifications, or through a very short coaching course. There is no explicit requirement of people to have formal accreditation to become a Coach. At the other end of the spectrum is psychotherapy, where people often spend 5 years going through rigorous training, supervision, their own therapy and building up 150 of hours of client contact before they can call themselves a therapist.

For me, a middle way has worked well by completing a post graduate Coaching and Mentoring course. I supplemented this a few years ago by gaining Executive Coach accreditation with the Association for Coaching and am a member of the Association, which requires ongoing continuous professional development. Around two years ago, I set up a local Coaching network with a focus on development and supervision which is working really well. We meet every 6 weeks and have a theory input on some aspect of coaching from one of the group, followed by a supervision session on our work with clients, and a general catch up on our work.

I have long had an interest in the underlying aspects and motivations of people’s behaviour. Several years ago, I completed a foundation course in counselling skills, and also a foundation course in group analytic psychotherapy. I took this one set further a couple of years ago and started training as a psychotherapist. I did this for 18 months and started seeing clients but struggled with level of work involved and keeping the day to day business going; I also felt that I was “good enough” as a Coach that can when the situation requires it, work deeply with people, as well as supporting self awareness and responsibility for action. I do feel that a sound psychological understanding of the areas of counselling and psychological therapies are an important foundation that enhance my coaching practice.

The next few years

Its illuminating to reflect that I have inhabited a structured work life over many years, helping organisations plan for the future, putting in place strategic and human resources plans and performance management systems, but in the last few years I have moved into much more fluid ways of working focussing on personal development, coaching, and working with groups looking at group dynamics and how best people work with one another.

I’m reminded of the Papua New Guinea saying: “knowledge is only rumour until it becomes part of the muscles”. I have moved away from more rigid planning approaches and embrace much more the interlinking of intuition and reflection with a modicum of planning, rather than using planning to be in the driving seat. I have always liked Peter Drucker’s thought that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I know from my approach to fitness that you can have all the plans in the world, but they can fail without the intuition to understand and self reflect, and deal with inbuilt “recidivism” of having several goes at making changes.

The future for me in terms of work will be about 1-1 and team coaching and continuing to support the in-house Coaching programmes I have work on with several organisations. I am currently working towards formal accreditation as a Coach Supervisor.

Final reflections; why do I coach?

It’s an important question to ask of ourselves in the so called helping professions; why do we do what we do? There are several answers to that question for me. I get a huge kick out of people self actualising and overcoming barriers in their lives. Coaching is a privilege; a unique window into someone else’s life and their professional and personal journey.

I trust that I have enough self-awareness and humility to understand that I also get a huge amount out of doing the work. There is something about Jung’s archetype of the wounded healer in the work; I help people with the things I need to work on myself. I also believe that whilst we are doing our utmost to help clients, we get the clients we ourselves need.

I hope the article has prompted some thoughts for you as a Coach or thinking about becoming a Coach. A few questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Where has your professional journey taken you to date? What themes are emerging as you reflect back on it, if you “press the rewind button”?
  • What was it that took you into coaching? Why do you coach? Or if someone considering coaching, why do want to become a Coach?
  • How do you “sharpen the saw” and keep yourself continuously developing?
  • What do the next few years of coaching practice look like for you?

 

Coaching skills for Managers

Coaching skills for Managers

 

Line managers are increasingly expected to coach staff and can have a powerful influence on their teams and the organisation as a whole when they adopt a coaching style of management.
As a way of managing people, coaching differs from the traditional corporate ‘command and control’ approach in the following ways:

  • Collaborating instead of controlling
  • Delegating more responsibility
  • Talking less, listening more
  • Giving fewer orders, asking more questions
  • Giving specific feedback instead of making judgements

This is not simply a case of ‘being nicer’ to people – delegated responsibility brings pressure to perform and coaching Managers maintain a rigorous focus on goals and results.

Simply put, coaching means asking questions, not simply to gather facts but to elicit solutions, feelings, ideas and new thoughts from the person being coached. If the objective is to develop employees, asking them questions challenges them to think harder and more broadly about issues, thereby enlarging their perspective and improving their reasoning skills. When the need is to make decisions, the same coaching skills can generate better solutions. The skill of coaching is in being able to ask questions that help people open up, and bring into play a wider circle of ideas and expertise.

Some people argue that it is impossible for a Manager to act as a coach, given her position of authority over her team. While authority is an important issue, it need not be an insurmountable obstacle – as long as there is genuine trust and respect in the working relationship. It is also a fact that coaching frequently takes place between peers and even upwards on occasion, with some enlightened bosses happy to be coached by their team members.

In his book Coaching for Performance John Whitmore raises the issue of managerial responsibility and authority, and asks ‘Can the Manager, therefore, be a coach at all?’:The answer is yes, but it demands the highest qualities of that Manager: empathy, integrity and detachment, as well as a willingness, in most cases, to adopt a fundamentally different approach to his staff: he may even have to cope with initial resistance from some of his staff, suspicious of the motives or perhaps having got used to a “dependency” authoritarian style.

CIPD Research

Coaching has consistently come in Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) surveys as a key way to motivating and helping individuals and teams to solve issues, improve performance and develop skills and confidence in the workplace.

In a recent survey of over 600 HR specialists and line Managers, people were asked what skills they need to be coaching Managers and what influences coaching management approach.

Two related features of a coaching style of management were identified: primary coaching characteristics, which focus on performance, and mature coaching characteristics, which focus on empowerment. Primary coachingcharacteristics comprise: a development orientation, a performance orientation, effective feedback processes and successful planning and goal-setting activities. Mature coaching characteristics, which are also associated with a participative management style, include: using ideas from team members, powerful questioning, team-based problem solving and shared decision-making.

Mature coaching characteristics are more likely to be achieved by those in more senior positions, who often have more “discretionary time” and are less caught up in the operational challenges that dominate life for line managers.

Coaching by line Managers is associated with levels of manager self-confidence and good Manager/team relationships. At the same time, these factors may encourage Managers to engage more often in coaching behaviours.

Time constraints are the most significant barrier to achieving a coaching style of management, but organisational culture and a lack of confidence to deal with difficult people are also inhibitors.

Clarity in coaching roles and expectations, senior management ownership of coaching as a business issue and top management role-modelling of coaching characteristics are all important ingredients of a coaching culture.

What Coaching Managers do

Managers have many responsibilities; coaching is among the most important. Coaching does not simply correct today’s problem; it helps keep the problem from resurfacing. The employee not only understands the goal, but can teach it to others. Coaching may take longer than correcting, which is a “quick fix,” but it is longer-lasting. It builds a body of understanding, and, if done well, helps build a workplace culture.

How does a Manager shift from a directive approach to Manager as Coach? 

1. Managers know their staff. They pay attention to their work and to them as human beings. They never make assumptions about the motives that drive the individuals’s words or actions. They take time to learn the person’s hopes, fears, and history.

2. Managers check their egos at the door. They resist trying to impress staff with their knowledge. Their satisfaction comes not from hearing someone say “how do you know so much?” but in seeing the individual grow his or her skills. When coaching is done well, learners believe they personally have discovered ideas and answers, hence, they may never acknowledge the Managers’s contribution. And that should be just fine with the Manager.

3. Managers ask questions. What did you see out there? What did you like most about the assignment? What’s causing you concern? How would you like to approach the problem? Who else might we want to include? Is there another way to look at this? What would happen if we turned things upside down?

4. Managers listen completely. They resist the temptation to give instant advice or answers, even if they have them at the tip of their tongue. They give the individual time to get a point out fully, and only then work to develop a coaching conversation. They resist phone calls, door knocks, and the errant material lying on top of their desks. When coaching is underway, the most important gift a Manager gives is complete attention.

5. Managers are overall, positive. They emphasize growth and goodness. They catch people doing things right and reward them with praise. Managers are not insincere or flattering; they are genuine and specific in their praise. They give the individual details about what is being praised and why. They do not shy away from honest feedback about things that need strengthening, but even critical feedback is framed in a non-threatening manner.

6. Managers look for “teaching moments.” They are always on the alert for opportunities to reinforce values and skills. These are teaching moments. They may happen in formal meetings or casual conversations; in bringing people together, in calling upon a person to share the “how I did it” of a success story with others, through department-wide memos or personal notes. But when it comes to teaching moments, Managers are careful: they praise in public, and criticise in private.

7. Managers inspireYou may not think of yourself as an inspirational figure, and your humility is laudable. But even the most humble leaders are known for their values. People around them know what they stood for. What do you stand for? It can take courage to be inspirational, to overcome your own fears.People will watch what you do, more than what you say.

8. Managers are responsible risk-takers. They know the rules of the road so well that they don’t fear an occasional detour. They celebrate creativity that respects values but tries things a different way. They reward innovation. They aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves or look foolish to help get an important point across. While helping others grow, they are always challenging themselves to do the same. They do not fear change or challenge. They do not hesitate to say “I’m sorry” when they make mistakes. And even the best do.

What’s in it for Managers?

It’s probably fairly obvious that coaching benefits the people being coached – but what about the Manager? If you are a busy Manager, can you afford the time and effort required, when you already have plenty of other demands to cope with?

Coaching is not a case of ‘giving up’ your time and energy to helping others achieve their goals and solve their problems – it will also benefit you in the following ways:

A more committed team: empowerment is a powerful motivator. When you make a genuine effort to include people in setting their own goals, making decisions and implement their own ideas, they are likely to become more committed and focused at work.

Better team performance: because of its dual functions of managing performance and developing people, coaching leads to better individual and collective performance. The ongoing learning process means that the upward curve can get steeper over time.

Better working relationships: good coaching promotes trust and collaboration, and leads to better working relationships. It doesn’t mean you become everyone’s best friend, but it does mean working relationships can get easier and more enjoyable (or in some cases at least less stressful) for all concerned.

Better ideas: when you get into the habit of asking questions to draw out people’s creativity, you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of ideas your people start generating. After a while, you may not even need to ask every time – they will get into the habit of bringing you suggestions.

Better information: if you are genuinely coaching people in a collaborative, open spirit, people will feel more confident in coming to you with vital information – including telling you the ‘bad news’ while there is still time to do something about it.

Investing time to gain time: there is no doubt that in the short term it’s often quicker to ‘take charge’ and give orders instead of coaching. That’s fine for ‘fire fighting’, but in the long term, the more you direct, the more people will rely on you for directions, and the more of your time will be swallowed up by it. If you invest time in coaching however, over time your people will require less and less direction, and you will be confident in delegating more and more to them – freeing up your time for the tasks only you can accomplish.

What might it look like in practice?

Suppose someone comes to you with a story of something that’s gone wrong. As a good Manager/coach, there are three useful things to do at this point:

LISTEN to the story – get the details, express concern, show how important it is by giving excellent attention.

AFFIRM the bringer of the bad news – let them know how important it is that they raised this issue, what you’re impressed by about them, their speed of action, concern for customers, etc.

TURN THE CORNER from focusing on what’s wrong to focusing on what’s wanted.

Some good questions that can help here include:

• “So, instead of that, what you want is…..?” (let them finish the sentence)

• “What do you want to have happen next time?”

• “What would be better than that, for everyone?”

The individual may not have thought about this, being focused on what’s wrong. They may fall silent for a moment. Let them. Give them plenty of time to think about it. As always, a period of silence here is a good sign for the Manager Coach; there is thinking going on.

Expand the answer by asking, “What else?” to get more detail. Then ask about others’ perspectives on what would be preferable.

Reflections and practical Tools

Managing in a coaching style is ultimately about benefits to the team, the individual team, members and the Manager, and could even be seen as enlightened self interest as an approach.

Its important to say that this style of management isn’t the only one, and the principle of “situational leadership” an important caveat; there will be times as a Manager to be directive.There is good evidence though, that using a predominantly coaching style brings medium-long term benefits to all concerned.

As always, the approach sits best in an enlightened organisational context, where Senior Managers fundamentally believe in the approach, and where there is a learning culture of training for Managers, along with a recognition of the importance of the key HR practices of supervision, appraisal and regular team communication.

Leadership Styles Questionnaire 2013 looks at your leadership style in the context of 4 different styles, and reflect on what situations you might need to flex that style dependent on the person and the context.

If you want to go one step further and gain feedback on what your Team thinks of your leadership style, plus a simple feedback “start,stop,continue” exercise download the Leaderships Styles Informal 360 review exercise.

Why we need introverts

Why we need introverts

I came across this article in the online Guardian based on a book by Susan Cain, and think it makes some really interesting points. For me, there is some difference between how I am at work and at home (much more extroverted at work), but probably most naturally what I would define as a “gregarious introvert”. Continue reading

The Co-Active Coaching model

The Co-Active Coaching Model

 

The Co-Active approach comes from  “Co-Active Coaching – New skills for coaching people toward success”, by Laura Whitworth, Karen & Henry Kimsey-House and Phillip Sandahl, and offers a different approach to the “GROW” model we know and love…! Continue reading

What Jung would have made of the world today

What Carl Jung would have made of the world today

I came across this article on the BBC web site, and was intrigued, so have reproduced it in its entirety:

“The afternoon of life must have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage of life’s morning,”

Carl Gustav Jung died 50 years ago today. Alongside Sigmund Freud, he is arguably one of the two people of the 20th century who most shaped the way we think about who we are. But what would he make of the 21st century so far, asks Mark Vernon. Continue reading

Coaching skills overview

Coaching Skills overview

This overview offers a definition of Coaching with a detailed fact sheet, as well as additional pages you can look at which offer an overview of other frameworks of support, such as Transactional Analysis and NLP.

Continue reading

Coaching and Mentoring Skills

Coaching and Mentoring Skills

“Coaching is a conversation with a purpose, also a space where someone can think through what is going on for them/an opportunity to do ‘great thinking’’ (Starr 2008)

The work I have done with various clients in 1-1 and Team Coaching projects over the last few years, has been the most satisfying and enjoyable part of my work. Its when I feel “in the flow” and doing what I was born to do. My practice has been helped by completing a post Graduate Coaching and Mentoring qualification at Oxford Brookes University, gaining membership and Executive Coach accreditation of the Association for Coaching, along with various therapeutic training in psychotherapy, counselling and constellations theory.

The work I do with people varies from individuals looking to change career, building confidence, helping people get hold and become comfortable with a new role, and other areas such as helping developing their businesses.

This section pulls together articles on areas like coaching skills, coaching models and approaches, and is aimed at both people working as Coaches, and clients interested in the models used in the work.

Please select the resources you are interested in from the menu on the right hand side.

1-1 Coaching

1-1 Coaching 

David is an experienced accredited Executive, Career and Personal Development Coach. He works 1-1 with a range of people in the public and private sector in coaching projects in areas like business improvement, career change, retirement coaching and building confidence. Coaching projects help enable clients to make desirable and beneficial changes in both their professional and personal lives, by support to help them develop and grow. Continue reading