Coaching Conversation – A Way of Life!
Walking in the garden this morning, I overheard bits of conversation from a young couple – perhaps newly married! The lady was saying, “….. I need to have my breakfast by 07:00 am …. else, it upsets my schedule for the day …. “ and the gentleman responded, “…. what can you do to make sure you have your breakfast by 07:00 am …. ?”
By now, I had overtaken the couple so I couldn’t hear how the lady responded and how the conversation ended. I am guessing, the lady would have responded along the lines, ” … I think I should sleep early so I can wake up a little earlier in the morning and plan my day ahead ….” I am guessing again, by the end of their walk, the lady must have come up with an appropriate plan to meet her schedule the next morning and the man must have felt happy that he enabled her to think through her own dilemma.
If you notice, the man helped the lady think through her own dilemma and come up with her own solutions rather than impose his ideas on her. For this man, the manner in which he replied could be a natural response, however, we do hear a lot of variations, “….. how many times have I told you, you never listen to me …..”, “…. that is your problem, what can I do about it….”, “…. I hear this every morning, what do you want me to do ….”, etc. Most often, such conversations lead to more negative conversations or blame games ending up in heated arguments or sour relationships.
In an organizational context, every Manager has to deal with similar situations where team members or peers reach out to them with their dilemmas. Typically, the Manager jumps in to give his advice or feels pressurized to give his opinion considering his role or superior position. The Manager with his experience may recommend a workable solution however, the following possibilities cannot be ruled out:
- The solution may not excite the team member(s) or peers to act
- The solution may not be the best alternative to the situation
- The team member(s) or peers become dependent on the Manager to give ideas every time they are faced with a dilemma
- The solution doesn’t work and the Manager feels threatened of losing his face value
According to Neuroscience, when people think through their own dilemmas, the energy to act is much higher than when they are told to do something that they haven’t thought through themselves.
You will be surprised to know, the man and the woman in the park were having a “Coaching Conversation”. In a coaching conversation, the person who acts as the coach leads the coachee to think through their own dilemma by asking leading questions. For example,
- What is your goal OR what are you trying to achieve here?
- What have you done so far to get to your goal?
- What have you not looked at OR what else can you do here?
- How committed are you to act?
- How soon can you get started on your alternatives?
Forced to review their own situation without being judged, helps people find answers to their own dilemmas. This approach is far more powerful and enables others to develop themselves in the long-term rather than find quick fix solutions to their challenges in the short-term. Coaching is not an event, it is a ‘way of life’, where people are enabled to think through their own dilemmas and come up with solutions that work well for them.
There is no specific time to coach another person, it can happen in a simple conversation. As a Manager, you can be in a coaching conversation with your team member walking from your desk to the coffee vending machine – think about it!
About the Author:
Hardy Alexander lives in Mumbay, India, and he is a Leadership and Sales Coach. He is representative of Global Growth Group for India