There are numerous coaching frameworks out there, each with its own strategies and techniques. You can think of them as recipe cards guiding coaching conversations. Much like skilled chefs who blend various techniques and ingredients, coaches customize different methods and tools to align with an individual’s needs.
Here are some universally applicable coaching elements that span frameworks and can be customized and implemented according to your circumstances.
At first, this might seem like common sense, but active listening goes beyond just hearing. It requires giving your full and undivided attention.
To do this, you may need to create a quiet environment with no distractions, like pinging phones or other interruptions. Allow enough time for the conversation, and use verbal and nonverbal cues like eye contact, smiling, nodding and affirming phrases like, “Go on” and “I see.” Also, paraphrase or summarize what you hear to ensure your understanding.
Pose open-ended questions that invite your employee to explore thoughts, aspirations and challenges.
It is a good idea to have a few questions ready before the meeting to get the conversation flowing. From there, your active listening will enable you to ask clarifying and follow-up questions throughout the conversation.
Use insights from your employee’s reflection to collaborate on defining goals. It is important to engage them in this process, so encourage them to take the reins and define their next steps and action plans.
The SMART strategy for developing goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) can help guide you.
Once a goal is defined, it’s crucial to provide consistent feedback that acknowledges the employee’s efforts and highlights areas for improvement. This ongoing dialogue not only fuels growth but also fosters a sense of trust and continuous improvement. Establish specific times when your employees can reflect on their progress and you can reinforce your commitment to their development.
Let’s explore a real-life scenario that demonstrates coaching in action.
Imagine you’re a manager at a tech company and oversee a promising employee named Ryan. He has great technical skills but is hesitant in meetings and reluctant to take on additional tasks. You’ve identified a potential lack of confidence.
As the leader, it’s your role to approach Ryan. Given your understanding of the situation, it might be tempting to take a direct approach, advising Ryan to become more vocal during meetings and to assume more responsibilities to enhance his confidence and demonstrate his capabilities.
While this approach has good intent, it assumes the leader knows what the problem is and how to fix it and does not involve any collaboration or input from Ryan. This can lead to an environment ripe for defensiveness, miscommunication and misaligned goals.
Instead, consider how coaching techniques like powerful questioning, self-reflection and collaborative goal-setting could transform the conversation.
“Ryan, I’ve noticed that you’re not engaging in meetings, you’re showing hesitancy in areas where you have ample knowledge, and you’re passing up new opportunities presented to you. With the aim of supporting your growth, I’m interested in learning more about your perspective and how you’re feeling at work. This might involve me asking you some questions to grasp the situation better, and then, collaboratively, we can set goals to enhance your performance. How does that sound to you?”
In this approach, collaboration takes center stage. Rather than dictating what Ryan should do, you’re using coaching dialogue and even seeking his permission, which creates a safe and open space for him to share.