A coaching conversation is not just any conversation. It’s different than the other interactions that a leader may have with direct reports like giving direction, providing feedback or sharing advice. It’s different than a chat over coffee with your best friend.
In order to be truly effective and powerful a coaching conversation requires an environment where people feel safe enough to explore their thoughts and reach new insights. In David Rock’s book Quiet Leadership, the author suggests four elements should be in place:
1. Permission: “Is this a good time to talk and explore your thinking?”
2. Placement: “Let’s see if you can come up with some ideas .”
3. Questioning: “Is it OK if I ask you to share your thoughts with me?”
4. Clarifying: “Tell me more about this. What do you mean?”
I agree. There’s almost nothing more challenging than working to understand the thinking that drives people’s actions. Especially when they need to make a change. It only happens in an environment of trust. Given that our perceptions become our reality, asking people to think differently means we’re invading personal territory. It’s therefore crucial to establish permission anytime you want to hold a coaching conversation.
As you approach the most personal questions, ask once again for permission. People can quickly become defensive and stop listening to you. Asking permission frequently helps people feel safe, acknowledged and respected. Here are some sample approaches:
1. I get the sense you have more to say about this. Could I probe a little further?
2. I’d like to have a more open conversation than we’ve had before. Would it be OK to ask you some more specific questions right now?
3. Can we spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas around this?
4. I’d like to understand more about your thinking. Would you be OK with talking more about this?
5. I’d like to discuss some more personal matters. Would this be OK with you?
Ideas are like children; we love our own the most. ~ Chinese proverb
Advice is rarely helpful. People are far more likely to act on ideas they’ve come up with themselves. Adult learning studies prove this is the way we acquire new habits. We find a connection for other people’s ideas in our own mental maps and decide to act. It then becomes our own idea—our own decision.
What are your thoughts on it? Comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Author: Cathy Shaughnessy
Cathy Shaughnessy is a PRISM award winning ICF Master Certified Coach and author of the book series The Really Competent Coach. Cathy coaches senior leaders, mentors credentialed coaches, trains fledgling coaches and helps organizations build strong coaching cultures.
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