Adopting a coaching approach

Coaching is an important and valuable skill for leadership today and is a useful tool for developing people in your team.

I’ve found that by asking questions and helping individuals to think things through, they have a much deeper understanding of the issue. Compare that with a situation where you tell them the answer, you can’t be sure they have grasped the point you are trying to make.

This approach has been extremely useful in ensuring my team knows how their work fits with the bigger picture and what we are trying to achieve. Not what the job is that must be done but what the task is designed to achieve and how we can make this happen.

One of my main influences has been Myles Downey who sets out the GROW model in his book, Effective Coaching. To illustrate this model, I am going to explore an example from a time that I worked with a member of my team to develop a research project.  The individual, who I will call Lauren, needed to understand the importance of the project she was working on and the potential to influence change if approached in the right way.

GROW model
1. Identify the topic – you must first understand exactly what topic needs to be discussed. For Lauren, it was a research project she was working on.

2. Goal – this part explores what the individual needs to achieve. In my example, I wanted her to understand the purpose of the project so that she could ensure she developed the work to achieve the overall aim and bring about the change in society that we were looking to achieve. Having an understanding would ensure a better quality of work.

3. Reality – there were boundaries and constraints that would limit the project so understanding the reality would ensure the work concentrated on what was achievable within these.

4. Options – here we explored what actions she could take that would ensure the potential of this piece of work was maximised. It is important to say here that Lauren had previously been an academic researcher who would have explored a topic to add to a wider body of work. This work, however, was for a charity so I was keen that the budget was used to fund a project that pushed forward the agenda and influenced behaviours.

5. Wrap-up – after exploring a range of questions about the project, it was time to come to some conclusions so we recapped what Lauren understood about the project as a result of our discussion.  We then established a commitment to focus her actions on things that would ensure we maximised the value of the project and we agreed that I would support her going forward by meeting on a regular basis to discuss progress.

Exploring the project in this way had a significant impact on Lauren’s understanding. On a training course years ago, the tutor expressed a learning mantra which I have held close ever since. He said that in teaching others, you must remember the following –

I listen, I forget.      I see, I remember.      I do, I understand.

Rather than telling someone the answer or showing them how to do it (doing it for them), adopting a coaching approach ensures the individual does the work to think things through which means they are able to develop a real understanding of the issue at hand and develop a true commitment to taking things forward in an effective manner.


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