Coaching People to Higher Performance

We know teams have coaches.  In recent years so have executives and individuals, turning to career, life, or executive coaches to help them be more effective.
Every professional, regardless of title or job responsibilities, has opportunities to embrace coaching values and apply coaching tools, behaviors, and communication practices to help their colleagues be more successful, both individually and organizationally.  A coach tries to help others maximize their potential and make their very best contributions on an ongoing basis.  Coaching:

  1.  Helps others increase their self-awareness through a process of discovery and reflection.
  2.  Uses active listening skills and artfully poses open-ended questions.
  3.  Supports individuals in exploring their options and the consequences of their choices.
  4.  Holds people accountable for the commitments they make and their effect on others.
  5.  Ensures individuals understand the nature of the work and the results to be achieved.
  6.  Assumes good intentions and capabilities on the part of others until prove otherwise.
  7.  Looks for teachable moments that offer opportunities to provide meaningful feedback.
  8.  Uses the skills and techniques of facilitation, making it easier for others to act as desired.
  9.  Works with individuals to set appropriate goals and develop action plans.
  10.  Helps individuals reframe situations and refocus how they try to address them.
In his model of change, Kurt Lewin suggests a basic framework which we can use when coaching others to modify behaviors: unfreeze (to become motivated for change), change or transition (working on what needs to be changed), and refreeze (cementing the change into our habits and making it permanent).  William Bridges builds on this model in his popular work Managing Transitions, suggesting that individuals also go through a three-step process: (1) Endings and Letting Go, (2) The Neutral Zone, and (3) New Beginnings.

Bridges stresses the importance of helping people understand what will be different as a result of the change.  Doing so often provides the support they need to get through the neutral zone.  In this Harvard Business Review blog post, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shares a simple approach that his friend, psychologist Nathaniel Branden uses, that can assist individuals as they unfreeze and navigate the neutral zone.
"Five to eight people sit around a table, and each person selects one practice to change. One person begins the exercise by saying: 'When I get better at...' and completes the sentence by mentioning one benefit that will accompany this change. For example, one person may say: 'When I get better at being open to differing opinions, I will hear more great ideas.'"
If we want to effectively coach others (or ourselves) to higher dimensions of performance, specifying the benefits that will accrue from any change in behavior is an important step in the process.



Sylvia Dresser said...

This is a great post on coaching, thanks! So many people think of coaching as the same as sports coaching, where the coach tells you what to do and how to do it. Not so for this kind of coaching!

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Thanks Sylvia. I'm glad the post resonated with you. I agree that we need to get people thinking about coaching as a desirable behavior and not just in the roles normally associated with it.