Anatomy of a Coaching Conversation

What is coaching?  How do you know if you need a coach?  What’s the difference between a coach and a counselor or mentor?  What should I expect from a coach?  How does the process work?  These are all legitimate questions about an area that covers everything from supervisor feedback to help with your golf game to finding your life purpose.  Whatever the nature of the coaching conversation, it should always include three distinct components:  an agenda, exploration, and defining actions.

It’s up to the person who wants to improve to define the agenda.  Whether it’s your career, your performance, your leadership impact or your life, there must be an objective.  Generally, there is an overall objective that leads you to seek help but there also has to be an objective for the conversation.  Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this discussion?  What would make this a good use of my time?  If you engage a coach to help improve your overall performance, you might have a conversation to understand the common themes in your feedback or to develop a plan for addressing specific feedback.  If you engage a coach to help with planning for life after retirement, you might use a session to clarify your goals.  The coach will help with your little agenda while keeping in mind the bigger agenda that you want to achieve.

When I’m mentoring, I draw from my experience in an effort to teach someone how to do something I know.  Likewise, counseling or consulting draws on the past and a specific area of expertise.  Coaching, on the other hand, pushes the client to draw from his or her own knowledge and experience.  It focuses on exploration and thoughtful consideration of what might be done differently to get better results.  A coach will ask thought-provoking questions or simply listen while you consider what the problems might be.  Typical probing questions include:

  • If you could achieve your goal in six months, what would it look like?
  • What else could you do?
  • What else occurs to you?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  • Who else is affected in this situation?

The coach walks alongside you on the journey to improve.  They might share observations or provide tools to facilitate the discovery process, but a coach believes in the wisdom of the client to move from where they are to where they want to be.

All coaching conversations should lead to developing an action plan.  It doesn’t have to be formal, but you should walk away with something to do that will move you closer to your goals.  The work of coaching involves aligning the client’s passions, skills, and values with their daily actions.  The coach should leave their clients with more confidence, direction, and a greater sense of fulfillment than he or she otherwise would have.  This requires putting in the work between sessions to act on the learning and increased self-awareness.

A coaching conversation can be informal or you can pay for professional coaching services.  The advantages of coaching will be directly proportional to the effort and commitment that you make.  I strongly recommend professional coaching for anyone who wants to fulfill God’s vision for their lives and who understands the benefit of having someone walk alongside as you learn to live accordingly.

 

Leadership Speak

On the road to being a more masterful you, effective communication is critical. They teach parts of speech in school but I think they should teach acts of speech as well. Speech acts are powerful ways to have more positive relationships.

First, when we talk about the past we tend to make assessments and then assertions. We all judge and develop opinions about a person or a situation whether informed or not, whether spoken or not and these assessments become our truth. Perceptions are reality right. We are human and this ability to make assessments often protects us from hurt, harm, and danger. They inform our decisions and guide our actions. The challenge is when you actually make an assertion or a statement of judgment or opinion (informed or not) you engage others and open yourself up to be challenged. We should all expect this given that opinions and judgements are like noses and everyone has them. As leaders, when making an assessment, anticipate questions and apposing points of view, be ready to explain your logic and/or even the emotion that led to your position. Don’t get frustrated when others don’t see or share your perspective, just respectfully agree to disagree. It would be nice to say no harm/ no foul because we all have opinions, but as leaders recognize that your assessments often do impact people and sometimes it impacts their livelihood. So try to stay informed. See to understand different perspectives. Try to remain open to alternative points of view so that you limit any potential harm.
Next let me share a few tips on negotiations. I know that’s an unusual term to use but a lot of conversations are really negotiations. When you make requests, offer to do something, or agree with someone you are demonstrating negotiation skills.  When thinking about your conversation in those terms its important to be clear, so let’s talk about them. A good request includes details of what, when, how much, and why. The same is true of an offer you make to someone. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get requests from people where I have to go back and clarify any one of those details. The worst is when a leader is not sure what they want. Take the time to think through exactly what you are asking of others and remember that resentment comes when someone fails to answer a request that was never made. Unspoken requests are not legitimate because people cannot read your mind. When making a request or an offer, realize that the response can be yes, no, or a negotiation of what and/or when. An agreement or a commitment should be very clear as well and start with something like “I heard you” or “I understand” or “I will” or simply “I agree.” If you don’t get a response to a request or an offer, then you can ask for an agreement. These simple rules or acts of speech if practiced can reduce friction and conflict on every level and with any relationship. 

Lastly, its important how we as leaders talk about the future. A declaration is a statement you make that describes and creates a future possibility. A leader can share someone else’s vision but at some point you have to be able to describe the future state to others.  Write the vision, make it plain, then declare it! We need leaders in our homes, at work, in our communities, and within our government to speak life to a future that is inclusive, innovative, and inspirational. 

There was a point in my life where I had accomplished all that I’d wanted when I was younger and I stopped dreaming. It was a watershed moment when I realized this and started allowing myself to dream again. I learned how to dream in color! I learned to describe what I wanted for my family, for myself, for my community. I realized that as a leader I had the power to make my dreams a reality only when I spoke them out loud for others to support me, encourage me, help me, and hold me accountable.

Your acts of speech are powerful leadership skills, so hone them now. Practice effective communication in all areas of your life.


#masterfulyou

Finding North

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Success is a very nebulous concept.  It can be many things and what it means for an individual can change over time.  When you are young and ambitious it may mean a corner office, six figures, or buying a house. Over time and with changing circumstances, it can shift to something less tangible like peace, a meaningful relationship or good health.  The thing is…we can easily get lost or caught up in the rat race and need to find our north.  We need a compass to help line up our actions with something steady and sure.

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