Every Conversation a Coaching One
Hearing that every conversation can, and should, be a coaching conversation is not an easy thing. You sit down at your desk and stare at your calendar, a sense of doom hanging over you. You’re already stretched thin as it is, and now they want you to take all of your conversations and make them into coaching conversations. How does anyone expect you to have the time for that?
Now, this may be a bit of a dramatization of your reaction, but the truth remains that making coaching a part of every conversation you have is a daunting concept, and not one that you’re sure you have the time and desire to commit yourself to.
A Common Misconception
It may ease your mind to know that there’s something of a misconception behind the idea that every conversation can be a coaching conversation. Often, the idea is that every conversation needs to involve you, as the coach, giving feedback, discussing problems, or getting a thorough accounting of your employee’s progress. This isn’t true.
Making every conversation a coaching conversation isn’t actually that difficult, that time-consuming, or that tedious.
Your conversations become coaching conversations by treating the ideas others have with respect—allowing others to come up with their own solutions—by being considerate, and by being trustworthy.
A big part of implementing coaching into your everyday conversations is to go in with the right mindset. Coaching conversations are not going to consist of you telling your direct reports what they need to be doing differently. These coaching conversations won’t even necessarily consist of you being in control of the conversation, that isn’t, after all, what it means to coach.
Your role of coach is not to shape your employees or to push them to your solutions, but to give them the space to determine the best way for them to move forward and progress. Approach every conversation with the belief that your employees are smart and capable, and that your role is only to help them bring out their best work. Respect them and respect their capabilities. Belief and respect are the core of the InsideOut Mindset, and should be the guiding principles you use in all of your conversations.
Coaching Even in Non-Strategic Conversations?
But what about your water cooler conversations, those conversations in the break room and over lunch? Surely it’s not necessary to make those into coaching conversations? These moments are small chances for your employees to clear their minds and refresh themselves before jumping back into work.
No, these conversations are incredibly important and must be handled with consideration. Part of coaching is to show those you coach care beyond whether they can get their work done on time. Consider those conversations in the break room, are you focusing on building up your employees? On supporting them?
Use these relaxed conversations to evaluate where your employees are and what they need. Make your conversations more than chit chat, make them meaningful.
Apply the principles of coaching to every conversation. Make it Candid, Caring, and Constructive. This article by NY Times Best Selling Author Alan Fine will show you how.
A Compass for Conversations
As for the other conversations in your day, something to keep in mind is that you don’t always coach for the same singular purpose. After all, people are complicated and life is complex. But, despite that complexity, no matter the purpose behind your conversation, when approached with a coaching mindset almost any conversation will fall into one of three types of coaching conversations. Here at InsideOut, we call these three conversations the coaching compass. The coaching compass includes alignment conversations, breakthrough conversations, and check-in and feedback conversations.
How often are you having each of these conversations? Certain conversations, like alignment conversations, can be difficult to have. Alignment conversations happen when you and your coachee have gotten out of sync, and even when no one is in the wrong, they can feel personal. These conversations are the most commonly postponed conversations, mostly in the hopes that things will fall naturally back into alignment.
While you may at times be lucky enough for this to be the case, more often than not it is better for you to face these conversations head on. That isn’t easy, but heading in with the right mindset and with preparation, planning, and practice put in beforehand, you’ll find that these conversations go much more smoothly. While you may not ever be excited to engage in an alignment conversation, you should certainly be able to engage in them with far less dread.
How often do you check-in with your employees?
Further, how often are those check-ins effective?
It is not difficult to check in with your employees and make it effective. In fact, it can be done with as few as three questions.
- What’s working?
- Where are you getting stuck?
- What can you do differently?
Going through these questions can be done quickly, taking no more than a few minutes and some active listening. Of course, to make your check in conversations truly effective you must then remember to follow up. Asking the right questions loses effectiveness if you do not then follow up with the right actions. This is not the case of action speaking louder than words, though that is true, but rather the idea that actions and words together can be used to unlock the potential within your direct reports.
As for breakthrough conversations, think about the conversations you have every day with your direct reports. How often are you approached with a problem that, if you keep in mind your belief that your employees are skilled and capable, your employee would be able to handle on their own.
Coaching Best Practices
As a coach, it is important that you help them see that you believe them capable. Walk them through the GROW Model; help them work through what actions are available for them to take. Then follow up with them, check in on them. This is not a sign of lack of trust, but rather a sign of your support of them. Checking in with your employees is a sign that you listened to them, remembered their goals, and then cared enough to follow up and see how they’re progressing—because you fully believe that they are progressing.
It can be difficult at times to rein yourself in to the role of supportive coach rather than the provider of solutions. But it is part of being a coach. This does not mean that you never provide solutions or direction; as a manager that is often your role, and it is something you are likely very good at doing. But you do need to come to terms with when you are meant to play role of the solution-providing manager, and when you are meant to be the supportive coach.
One hint: Any time you think things will run more smoothly or go faster if you are playing the role of solution provider, reconsider your assumptions and ensure that you are not underestimating your employees. Are your decisions being made with the mindset that your direct reports are capable, and only need help to reach those capabilities? If you are not performing as supportive coach often, then you are diminishing the effect you have as a coach and you will not see as many positive results as you would if you fully invested yourself.
Now, the idea of making every conversation into a coaching conversation is generally considered the rule only when you are managing your relationship with your direct reports. But those aren’t the only people you’ll ever have need to coach. While it hopefully won’t happen as often, you will sometimes need to coach up.
This is not a conversation that you should head into lightly, but nor is it one you should shy away from when you feel it necessary. However, when it comes down to it, it shares many of the same elements all of your conversations have. Respect, consideration, and trust in the capabilities and choices of those with whom you counsel.
That, in the end, is part of how you ensure that all of your conversations are coaching conversations. While sometimes it will be following a specific format or asking certain questions, that will not be the brunt of the majority of your conversations.
Your conversations will be coaching conversations when you remember to think InsideOut—to focus on bringing out the best from others, instead of trying to push what you think is best onto them.
And as a bonus, if you do this right, you’re not going to lose time wasted in conversations. If anything, the conversations you have will be more productive—without taking extra time!