Coaching and Mentoring
Coaching Skills – Reading the Needs of Others
When we attempt to coach somebody, it is absolutely critical to ensure that we are communicating in a way which helps the person we are trying to coach, as much as possible. Experience tells us that some people are extroverted and really like to talk. They enjoy meetings where they can throw ideas around with other people and are happy to talk about their own ideas, even if the ideas are still in “first draft” stage. Introverts on the other hand are much more energized by quiet time away from other people where they can get their ideas into good shape and sort things right out before talking with others about them. Sitting in the same room extroverts will often think that introverts are not really interested in what is being discussed. They will become concerned that the introverts are not as involved as they would like them to be. From the introverts’ point of view the discussion is too unstructured, with people talking just for the sake of talking. The introverts will feel pressured when they think they have to come up with “instant” answers. Also, they might think the discussion is a bit all “over the place” and a bit lightweight because they do not understand that the extroverts are “thinking out loud”.
Good coaches are able to match their style to the needs of the person being coached. If the person is introverted the coach will do their level best to draw them out and not crowd them with too much talk or too many ideas at once. Coaching an extrovert involves much more interaction and space for them to talk about their needs, their views, etc.
Coaching someone is not a short term or one off experience. You need to make the time and commitment available to stick to it in the long haul.
A key ingredient in coaching is trust. As we all know trust takes time to build and can evaporate in seconds. The people we are coaching are watching and listening to establish if we can be trusted. We might tell them that we are worthy of their trust, but if we do the smallest thing which indicates we are untrustworthy their confidence in us will be quickly tested.
Barging in to help someone when they are not asking for help can be a sure way to destroy trust. Especially if they feel that your actions are somehow putting them down or that they will now be in trouble or have a black mark against their name. Looking for signs which tell you that it’s OK to help is important, but more important is checking that you have not misunderstood. Just asking some questions which allow the person to invite you to help is a sure and simple way of opening up possibilities. Asking questions which sound like “Are you in trouble?” or “What’s your problem?” might get you the wrong answer.
The Coaching cycle
The Coaching cycle is a useful way to better read the person you are trying to coach. It is a simple four-step iterative approach that can be applied in almost all circumstances and helps the coach to ensure that an individual coachee ultimately reaches better performance or results.
THE UNDERSTANDING STEP
In most circumstances, coaching typically begins with ideas and concepts about what might be different or better. As a coach you might see deficiencies in the performance of the person you are coaching or you might see that there are some great challenges and opportunities in store for them. No matter what the reasons for your coaching intervention, it will always start with some sort of idea about what might be possible or different for the person you’re coaching.
THE ASSESSING STEP
Having developed an initial idea of the possibilities, but perhaps only at a vague and speculative level, you need to move towards planning to get some real action going. If there’s no action nothing’s going to change! It’s during this part of the Coaching Cycle that you both begin to experiment with ideas and make plans for the action which is going to follow. Developing options and specific plans for action also needs to happen about now.
THE IMPLEMENTING STEP
Taking action and making things happen is vital. It doesn’t matter whether someone is being coached around some simple technical task, or if you are working right down at the “Learning to Learn” end of the Coaching Continuum, they have to take action and do something different or better for things to change. Doing more of the same will just get you more of the same old result.
THE MONITORING STEP
After the action has been taken or after the experience of doing something differently has happened we need to capture the learning and maybe improve on things by reviewing what actually occurred. What did we do right? What was not so right? If we had our time over would we do things in exactly the same way. If not, what would we do differently?