Three simple coaching techniques you can use right now – and a rant

So it’s great that companies see the value in investing in developing coaching skills for their managers.

BUT

*RANT ALERT!*

When that investment is spent on a half to full day training, where staff are sheep dipped through hours of models and basic discussions, culminating in a coaching trio where each participant only gets 20 minutes of practice.

IT’S A COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY!

Learning a skill like coaching is like going to the gym. Sure after a tour you have an idea of what to do, after one session you’ve used some muscles but to really get stronger you need to be going consistently. You don’t go from weakling to body builder in one session.

And coaching is a high risk skill to start experimenting with.

By it’s nature a coaching conversation is a very different conversation than one you might be having with your team at the moment. Even the most open leader doesn’t want to look like a fool in front of their team by inexpertly trying something new or worst yet being labeled as having just been on a course!

I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Instead if you want to develop a coaching culture within your organisation start with something simple that people can experiment with in a low risk way right now.

Picture showing the 3 coaching techniques

Listen

All coaching starts with listening.
Put away all distractions
  • Shut the laptop lid
  • Put your phone away
Listen to ignite rather than to reply
  • Look directly at the person speaking
  • Give them all your attention, listening with respect, interest and fascination
  • Let thoughts, ideas, suggestions, opinions, questions, judgements leave your mind as easily as they enter
  • Do not interrupt
A concern people often have is that if they don’t interrupt the conversation could go on and on. As the coach you are in charge of the boundaries. At the beginning ask, ‘I’ve only got 10 minutes will that be enough time or shall we schedule something for later’. You now also have permission to interrupt when the 10 minutes has passed.
Another concern is that you may not be in a position where you can give someone your full attention. Be honest and say, ‘I really want to give you my full attention on this and I’m working on something right now, can we schedule this for tomorrow?’.
I also know people are concerned that if they don’t think about what they are going to say while they are listening say next there will be an awkward silence.
Do not worry my friend, this is where the next two techniques come in. All you have to do is wait for the speaker to run out of steam and either say:

Tell me more…

These three words will make you into the most marvelous conversationalist ever and also put you straight into a coaching mindset. One of curiosity to see where the speaker will take themselves if given the space.
They are also very useful if you accidentally zone out and are not sure what the speaker is on about. So a friend told me ๐Ÿ˜

OR

Summarise

Something happens in the brain when you hear your own words said back to you. You see things in a different way and often this unlocks a new line of thinking. Especially if what you hear back isn’t quite what you thought you said.
Summarising often has the same effect as saying, ‘tell me more’ in that the speaker usually responds to your summary, if not, ask them to tell you more.

Now what?

Now throughout this process your own opinions, thoughts, advice, judgements will be trying to bubble to the surface. You’ll be itching to say something helpful. Instead try going through the loop 3 times first so that you have a more complete picture of what is going on and then add your input.
By using these three techniques you will be taking a coaching approach in your conversations.
Give it a try in your next conversation and let me know how it goes. Also fire any questions over to me, I reply to all comments, DMs and emails.

My thinking for this piece was inspired by a Lunch ‘n Learn session I ran for Sysdoc on coaching skills and draws on the thinking of Nancy Kline and the Thinking Environment and this article from Ozan Varol for the Next Big Idea Club.

Get in touch if you’d like me to run a workshop for your organisation or network.

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