Coaching and Mentoring
There are a number of models and frameworks that can be used to assist in conducting a coaching session. These range from simple to very complex and tend to be general in nature and non-specific in application. As a result, a more practical model is often needed, especially when it comes to new skills or behavior development, and a storyboard-based approach often works well.
The consulting organization WCOD and its publishing arm Team Publications developed the single page storyboard, called the One Page Coach® in Australiain 1993. As the name suggests, the storyboard was developed to present a subject in basic terms all on one side of a normal piece of paper. In addition, the goal was to build a highly logical system that could provide a simple overview of a topic, by dividing the subject into 11 or 12 frames within which to tell the “story” and using bullet points and images. The storyboard consequently offers a sequential pathway that can help individuals to quickly understand the subject in question. An example of such a storyboard is shown below.
All of these storyboards provide a subject overview using a very logical, step-by-step layout. Today, there are many One Page Coach® storyboards and these have been used as simple training and coaching templates in hundreds of companies, small and large, all over the world.
Using the Storyboard as Coaching Support Tool
Because a storyboard is a simple, highly digestible and easy-to-follow learning methodology that can benefit many employees from individual contributors to senior managers, it is an ideal tool to share when coaching. The storyboard gives both the coach and coachee a reference point and guide for the conversation, as well as plenty of headings and other prompts for specific discussions to be held in a logical and progressive format.
As the example shown above indicates, each storyboard is divided into four stages or phases, shown on the left and in the four circles at the top right, thus providing the topic in question with a simple, phased structure and support for on-going or continuous development (based on the Deming continuous improvement model).
In the FIRST stage or phase (top line), the coach and coachee typically discuss the various aspects of the present or foundational situation as it relates to the topic area in question. By discussing and even making notes, both parties can discover new insights and thereby establish a strong preparation base for future development work.
The SECOND stage typically helps the coach to assist the coachee to look beyond his or her current perspective in relation to the topic or perhaps think about a different approach. This stage also helps a coachee to be open to learn from others and think about possible changes in attitude or behavior.
The THIRD stage typically helps both coach and coachee to form possible development goals and sub-goals relating to the topic together, as well as create a list of actions and measures that enable him or her to achieve these.
The FOURTH stage typically seeks to establish that a clear plan for executing personal forward development exists and that follow-up mechanisms are in place to ensure that there is positive future progress. In this regard, each storyboard always ends with a review of the learning journey that has been travelled, and with a revisit to any previous frames that may need additional attention.
In overall terms, coaches can do one of two things with each storyboard:
1) Perhaps the most common application method is to help the coachee work through the different frames sequentially and explore his or her responses to relevant questions for as long as necessary. This process could involve deeper and deeper probes as required.
2) The other approach is more “mosaic” where the coach can use the storyboard to review which parts or frames in the whole storyboard may be in need of development or even be missing altogether and then focus on those first. This is particularly useful where time is limited and it may not be possible to spend substantial time on all of the frames.
Coaches can ask their own questions with each frame on the storyboard. However, they can also use the Coaching Guide that WCOD developed from practical experience with each storyboard. This lists a range of pre-prepared questions for each frame and provides brief support notes for the coach.
Working with an individual using a storyboard is seldom a prescriptive process or one that takes a fixed amount of time. As such, a coach may run through the whole storyboard in just 4 or 5 coaching sessions (an introduction and then each “line” of the storyboard per session perhaps). Equally, a coach may take up a whole session on one frame of the storyboard or even more if, as a coach, he or she feels that it is necessary and useful to the coachee, in which case 10 to 15 sessions may result. Whatever the overall time-frame, the coach needs to make a judgment according to individual needs and circumstances and dwell on a given frame for as little or as long as necessary.
A storyboard is a simple device that helps an individual to quickly appreciate the body of knowledge around a particular topic. However, a storyboard can be even more powerful when used as a coaching tool for both coach and coachee, where each frame of the storyboard is used as the basis of substantial discussion. A coach can ask a range of questions related to the frame and an individual can respond by thinking about his or her own personal situation and particular workplace challenges. By the end of the process, both parties are likely to feel that they have delved deeply into the subject area and found a range of helpful ways to apply the learning.