Coaching and Mentoring
Coaching Effectiveness – A Six Step Model
We hear the word coaching quite a lot these days. There are personal coaches, performance coaches, executive coaches and many other types, but in all cases trying to achieve a similar goal-to help people to achieve a better outcome or result. This might involve help to achieve a particular goal or skill, such as to get fitter or to become more adept when making presentations to groups for example. However, it might also be coaching of a much less specific nature, in which an individual needs some broadly based but immediate feedback on how they are generally performing in a role (when promoted into a new management or leadership position for instance).
Step 1: Recognise
Whatever type of coaching we are trying to provide, formally or informally, we are likely to be most successful in helping the other person if we have a clear process to follow. In this brief article, we will be looking to provide you with some thoughts on what this process could look like, so that you can take your own approach. To assist us in dong this, we will be describing a six-step journey, which aims to progressively build overall effectiveness in the coaching realm. Let’s therefore get straight to the first of these steps-to recognise where a coaching intervention may be helpful and to think about what we individually bring to each situation.
All coaching can be said to be conducted along a simple continuum. At one end of this continuum, the coach does all of the leading and effectively operates like a teacher (with lots of directional comment and guidance. As the coach moves to the right in this model (and does a little less telling) he or she moves into “showing and helping” mode. This is still coach-led but allows for more independence on the part of the learner or “coachee”. At the next stage in the model, the coach moves into a mode in which he or she starts to stretch the coachee, or gives him or her a higher target or challenge (leaving it much more up to the individual to work out how to meet that challenge). Finally, the coach travels to the far right on the model and moves into becoming a “learning to learn” type of coach, with the prime role being mainly to encourage the independent efforts of the coachee (and offer very little in terms of particular direction or skill transfer).
Every one of these coaching interventions along the continuum is appropriate to use but only when it fits the circumstances. In other words, we have to learn when the task or person in question requires us to be more directive or more empowering in our approach. If we match our “style” of intervention well, we are likely to get much better results than if we adopt a “one size fits all” coaching style for every person in all circumstances.
We tend to think about coaching as a formal process most of the time. However, it is actually the informal or impromptu coaching opportunities that arise with much greater frequency. This gives each and every one of us a far higher number of situations in which we can offer coaching and hopefully build our practical application skills comparatively quickly. This is especially the case if we have a positive and helpful attitude towards those people around us. This means being available to listen to people at appropriate times and in suitable places to get the most out of each conversation.
Step 2: Reading
Let’s now go on to the second stage in the model – reading the person to whom you wish to offer coaching support. When we are trying to build any kind of relationship, much of the early effort is usually concentrated on establishing empathy and rapport. In coaching, this is perhaps even more important because there is a need to create a trusting and honest relationship in which both parties feel that it is safe to be open and frank in the exchange. The responsibility for establishing this solid foundation of trust and honesty lies mainly with the coach. This means that it is the coach who needs to invest time in reading the other person and then applying the information gathered to build what we might call “bridges” of rapport.
There are many “perspectives” or “models” we could mention which help us to better read the person we are seeking to coach. However, we will briefly look at two of these.
The first perspective to think about concerns the similarities and differences in the person to be coached in terms of personality. We all know that it is a mistake to assume that others think in much the same way as we do on most issues. Nonetheless, we often act as if this is the case, and then wonder why we are not “connecting” very well. The person we are coaching may be more or less creative, analytical, flexible, people focused than we are for example, and we therefore need to appreciate this in order to tailor or “flex” our coaching style. Of course, in the early stages these individual characteristics may not be immediately apparent. In such cases, our relatively simple relating strategy is to determine whether the other person is broadly more extraverted or introverted. This basic distinction can immediately make a huge difference in a range of ways. In communication, for example, an extravert will typically be happy to brainstorm ideas with you as a coach. An introvert, on the other hand, will typically want extra time to reflect on what is discussed (meaning more time may need to be allowed to get the best results).
The second perspective to briefly look at is to consider another person’s possible learning style. Learning style relates to how individuals perceive and process information. There are a number of models relating to learning styles but a very useful one to use when coaching is the approach developed by Honey and Mumford. This suggests that there are 4 “style types”. These are the Activist, the Reflector, the Pragmatist and the Theorist. The direct implication of this theory for coaching is that a coach can best build an early relationship by providing input and guidance that is oriented towards a person’s chosen learning style (and if this is not immediately obvious you can ask them to read the definitions and pick the one that seems to be most applicable to them).
Step 3: Receiving
Once an individual has established a reasonable level of confidence in their relationship with you as a coach, you can perhaps then start to stretch them to consider other learning style channels. However, the “coachee” should drive this process and the coach needs to carefully watch and listen for the clues that the other person is ready. Once again, this leads us nicely onto our next stage in our model-receiving information.
To receive information sounds like a highly passive activity in which we act as mere collectors of sound-bites. But to receive effectively is actually a highly active process in which the coach invests considerable effort to both concentrate and listen attentively. In simple terms this involves:
- Watching for and responding to clues offered by the coachee
- Continuing to establish rapport (by genuinely opening up and sharing information)
- Seeking to build the relationship over the longer term.
This last point is particularly important because the success of any coaching effort is often based on the willingness of both parties to keep talking and maintaining high levels of engagement (and setting goals for the future, which look for higher performance or better outcomes). A good example of this would be in the sporting world, where coaches often have “partnerships” with the top players, commonly for many years (in swimming, running and tennis for example).
Step 4: Reframing
One of the reasons why an individual can benefit from a coach is that they can usually obtain a different perspective or have someone look at an issue, problem or challenge with fresh eyes. Although a coach can do this in an “ad-hoc” way, by adopting a more systematic reframing process, the individual can potentially be helped to see things in a new way quite quickly.
There is a simple re-framing process that you can adopt. It starts by clearly defining what it is that the coachee would like to focus on as an issue or do differently in the future. The coach then elicits input from the coachee relating to any negative or limited feelings they may have and why they may exist. At point four the coach works with the coachee to deliberately try to replace the limiting thoughts with new and much more positive ones, and then asks the individual to consider the implications and to form an action-plan based on the new mental experience. This is a straightforward process but a powerful one to use in practice.
Step 5: Recording
Let’s finally now consider the last two stages of our effective coaching model – the first of these and the fifth overall is called recording.
Our initial reaction to “recording” suggests that the coach is often well-served to make copious, detailed notes when talking with the coachee. However, it is more accurate to suggest that in longer-term coaching in particular a summary record of what was agreed to in each conversation can be very useful to both parties. This includes the initial stages in the relationship when you are setting ground-rules, when you hold each separate conversation, and finally, when you think you have reached a reasonable conclusion between you.
Step 6: Review
Our final and sixth stage in the model is to review your own performance as a coach. Our goal in this stage is to reflect upon the overall circumstances in which the coaching took place, how good the experience was for both parties and what you can learn to do even better as a coach in order to evolve or progress in the future. If this is done honestly, your skills as a coach will continue to deepen and your capacity to achieve more in your own work and life in general will increase substantially.