The Coaching Two Step

It might surprise you to know that there isn’t a universal definition of coaching that everyone agrees on.

So I came up with my own:

“Coaching is giving someone your attention while they think out loud and asking questions to help them discover their own solutions to act on.” 

As a manager, coaching is one of many management styles that you can use, and my guess is that it doesn’t get used very much.

That’s why I came up with the Coaching Two-Step. 

It’s a model to help you to seamlessly integrate coaching into everyday conversations with your team.

The Coaching Two-Step Diagram has two feet at the bottom to signify attention. To the left is a speech bubble with a question mark inside it to signify 'tell me more' and to the left is another speech bubble with lines inside it to signify summarise.

How to use the Coaching Two-Step 

When your team member comes to you for help and you want to use a coaching style, stop what you’re doing and give them all your attention, listening with curiosity to what they have to say.

This is your starting position. Your aim is to listen to what they have to say and not fix the problem for them. To help them do their own thinking out loud so they find their own answers you have two options:

  1. ask them to ‘tell me more’; or
  2. summarise the essence of what you’ve just heard.

These two options encourage your team member to think out loud making it more likely they’ll stumble on the answer they need themselves.

Once you’ve tried one of these options, you go back to silently giving them all your attention while you listen with curiosity to what they have to say.

When they finish, you have the choice between the two options again and the conversation continues. If it were a dance it might look like this:

Start at attention, summarise what you hear, back to attention, ask tell me more, back to attention, ask tell me more, back to attention, summarise what you hear, back to attention, ask tell me more, back to attention.

Limiting yourself to these two options at the beginning of the coaching conversation helps you hold back your urge to be helpful.

And by helpful, I mean solving the problem for them.

By listening for longer your team member will either work out what to do themselves or you’ll be helping them solve the real problem.

And you get a lot more insight into your team member and the team.


Why is it called the Coaching Two-Step 

I was struggling to find a name for the model as I was explaining it to my husband he said that the way you step in and out was like a dance. Jokingly he called it the “Coaching Salsa”.

I wasn’t convinced so he suggested the Coaching Two-Step instead. I liked it, my editor liked it and so here we are.

It’s also a fabulous metaphor because coaching is like a dance.

There’s a structure to it and both parties move in partnership. I designed the model deliberately so that if you ever felt lost you could come back to the rhythm of it and no one would be any the wiser.

As with any dance, you’ll get more familiar with it as you practise; you’ll add your own flair and make it your own.

Give it try in your next conversation, either ask the person to tell you more or summarise back what you’ve heard.

Then come back and tell me what it was like.

Want practical coach ideas that you can use everyday?

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