How to coach – Introduction to coaching – Part 2

In a previous post we looked at some of the benefits of coaching your team members. Here we consider how you would start coaching. You can coach anytime, anywhere. Your coaching conversations need not be formal or take more than a few minutes. It is however distinguished from other management activity by two key points:
– it is solution-focussed,
– it leaves ownership and accountability with the staff member or coachee.
To achieve this, coaching involves asking insightful questions and providing reflection without giving advice or direction.

Start with the outcome

Start conversations with ‘what do we want to achieve?’, ‘what do you need?’. Encourage your staff member to articulate where they are aspiring to be or what an ideal outcome would look like. Then you look at the current situation: ‘This is our goal, and this is where we are at the moment. Let’s talk about how we bridge that gap.’

Next, encourage the coachee to come up with potential solutions or options. Rather than providing advice, ask questions to help them work issues out for themselves: ‘What options do you have?’ ‘What do we need to do to make this project a success?’ ‘How are you going to marshal your skills, experience, and resources to achieve it?’ and the magic coaching question: ‘What else?’ Aim for as many options as they can gather – we often find that the really innovative solutions only emerge once we exhausted all the obvious ideas.

Ensure that there is a specific set of outcomes or actions from the coaching conversation. The coachee needs to choose and commit to their own next step to draw real benefit from this approach.


It is not about you – ownership and accountability belong with the coachee

In coaching the question is always, ‘what are you going to do’, then ‘what support might you need to succeed’? Accountability and ownership rests with the coachee or individual whose job or project you are discussing.
Your role is to facilitate their thinking, not to solve the team member’s issues, or do their job for them. Understanding this distinction is remarkable freeing and allows for better quality conversations.
Listen to the other person, rather than your thoughts about how you might respond. What is really important to them? What are their challenges? What opportunities are they seeing? What next steps do they want to take?
When encouraged to come up with our own solutions, we maintain ownership and accountability, and feel much more motivated to follow through than when we are told what to do.

Provide support and challenge

Provide support and help where it is needed. Ask your team member to articulate what they see as the main challenge in a particular project and how you can support them in overcoming it.
Encourage them to identify the resources available to them; or similar situations or tasks where they have previously been successful.
Praise people for difficulties they’ve chosen to tackle, for taking ownership and accountability or for doing a great job of resolving their own issues.

Also provide constructive challenge. If you hear ’We can never do that because…..’ ask them, ’Are you sure? Can you tell me what it would take for us to actually be able to? Could we do something differently to enable us to achieve this?’ Challenging is often a crucial part of coaching

Coaching is a crucial management skill

And an activity that has great return on time invested and wide-ranging business benefits. Put these suggestions into practice and if you would like more support, consider hiring a coach for yourself or taking part in coaching skills training.

It is at the intersection of ownership, accountability, support and challenge where growth takes place, allowing you to fulfil the central leadership responsibility of getting the most from your people.

Coaching is a core leadership skill, which time and again has been shown to increase managerial and organisational effectiveness. Join the webinar and learn the key skills of Coaching for Success: Click Here For Instant Access.

Eszter Molnar Mills is a strength-based leadership and organisation development specialist and founder of Formium Development. A qualified executive and team coach, she helps organisations and individuals reach enhanced performance by reflecting on what works, and developing skills and strategies for improvement. Eszter developed several Coaching skills for Managers programmes for organisations and is the Programme Director of Chartered Management Institute (CMI) qualifications in Management Coaching and Mentoring.