Exploring ‘Coach’

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Coach  vb.  To facilitate an improvement in performance by questioning, challenging and supporting.

My personal reflections – During the early part of my career I was privileged to work with a senior manager who had an outstanding ability to ask pertinent questions and then listen patiently to me as I worked towards meaningful answers.  I never felt directed towards a particular outcome or plan of action.  Indeed, I don’t know if Mike, my line manager when I work in Shell Ventures, ever had his own thoughts on the issues we explored.  But he always created the conditions within which I was able to develop well-considered and confident action plans.  So it was that I experienced, as recipient, the empowering benefits of good coaching practice.  Thereafter, and within my various roles as manager and leader, coaching became a valued means of assessing and improving the performance of both individuals and teams.  I have experienced, as a coaching-style manager, how the process has helped others deepen their learning, improve their performance and enhance their quality of life.  In designated coaching meetings I learned to listen, contribute my observations and ask well selected questions. Through this process the individuals and teams I’ve worked with have created clarity of purpose, moved towards effective action and accelerated their development and performance.  I have further learned that it is critical to understand where teams and individuals are in the here-and-now, and to appreciate what they’re willing to do to get to where they want to be in the future.  The coaching process recognizes that results are a matter of intentions, choices and actions.  I have found, almost without exception, that surprisingly good things can happen with individuals and teams if they are supported by a manager’s efforts and the application of the coaching process..

The leadership context – There is much confusion about what coaching is, as opposed to counselling, consulting and mentoring.  Here are some common examples used within the coaching community to explain the differences.  If you wished to learn how to ride a bicycle and hired a:

  •  Counsellor: The counsellor would help you discover what is holding you back from riding the bicycle.  They would go back into your past to discover what kind of experience you had at an early age with a bicycle.
  •  Consultant:The consultant would bring you a bicycle manual and tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the workings of a bicycle.  The consultant would then depart and return six months later to see how you were doing.
  •  Mentor: The mentor would share their experiences of bicycle riding and the lessons they had learned.  The mentor would bestow all their bicycle-related wisdom onto you.
  •  Coach:– The coach would help you get up on the bicycle and then encourage, endorse, acknowledge and support you while running alongside until you felt comfortable enough to go it alone.  They might then return every so often to help you become excellent at riding a bicycle.

An approach to coaching that has been successfully adopted by many managers and professional coaches over the past two decades utilizes the GROW model, (an acronym of:

Goal

Reality

Options

Will.

This model provides a simple yet powerful framework for structuring a coaching session.   A useful metaphor for the GROW model is the way you might coach a team member who was about to undertake an important (bicycle) journey.   First, and with the aid of an appropriate map, you would help your team member decide where they are going (their Goal) and establish where they currently are (their Reality).  Then you would explore various ways of making the journey (the Options).  In the final step of the process (establishing the Will) you would ensure your team member was committed to making the journey and was prepared for the conditions and obstacles they might meet along the way.

In terms of workplace practice, the GROW framework provides the following four-step structure for a coaching session:

Step 1: Goal.  The coaching manager and team member establish a specific goal for the discussion.  This goal should be within the span of control or influence of the team member, i.e. it needs to be something the team member can realistically achieve. Thereafter, manager and team member agree on a number of clear measures that will indicate the goal has been achieved.

Step 2: Reality.  Both manager and team member explore the current situation with regard to what is ‘real’ at present and the associated consequences of this reality.  The aim here is to achieve the most accurate picture possible of what is currently going on.

Step 3: Options.  During the options stage the coaching manager’s aim is to draw out a list of all possible actions the team member might take – without judgement or evaluation.  The manager draws out suggestions from the team member byasking effective questions and then guiding them towards making the most appropriate choice(s) through a cost-benefit analysis.

Step 4: Will.  The coaching manager’s aim during this stage is to gain commitment to action.  The manager and team member agree the most appropriate choices for action, commit to their individual and collective contributions, draw up an action plan and identify how to overcome potential obstacles.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

http://www.theknowledge.biz/

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