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Mark McGuinness www.wishfulthinking.co.uk - inspiring creative professionals Photo by urbancow Some rights reserved This e-book published by Mark McGuinness, London 2008 Text © Mark McGuinness 2008 This e-book is published under a Creative Commons licence which allows you to copy and distribute the e-book as long as you keep it intact in its original format, credit the original author and do not use it for commercial purposes. Web: www.wishfulthinking.co.uk Blog: www.wishfulthinking.co.uk/blog E-mail: email@example.com Important notes about the images The boardroom image on the cover and p.7 and the image of the pencil-clock on p.43 are licensed from www.istockphoto.com for use within this document. If you wish to use them elswhere you should purchase a licence from www.istockphoto.com The images at the start of the other chapters are republished from Flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence - you are free to republish them as long as you attribute them to the photographers. The easiest way to do this is to link to their page on Flickr, as I have done under each image. The portrait of me on p.44 is by Christina Jansen and may not be reproduced without her permission. Thank you to all the photographers for the great images. This e-book contains no afﬁliate links. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 2 Contents 1. Introduction: Why Coaching? 4 2. What Is Business Coaching? 7 3. Coaching Is Not Training, Mentoring or Counselling 10 4. Different Types of Coaching 12 5. The External Coach or Coaching Consultant 15 6. The Manager as Coach 17 7. Coaching and Leadership 21 8. Key Coaching Skills 25 9. The GROW Coaching Model 30 10. Formal and Informal Coaching 32 11. How Coaching Creates Creative Flow 36 12. The Business Impact of Coaching 40 13. Why Coaching Matters to Creative Companies 44 14. Recommended Coaching Books 48 15. If You Found this E-book Helpful... 52 16. About the Author 53 Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 3 1. Introduction: Why Coaching? Photo by Jeff Poskanzer As a creative director, business owner or manager of a creative team, the chances are you already coach your people to an extent - and you may be better at it than you realise. But there's also a fair chance that you have received little support in developing your people management skills. In the creative industries, so much attention is lavished on creative ‘talent’ and the products of creativity that vital aspects of the creative process are often overlooked. Such as the massive inﬂuence (positive and negative) managers and creative directors have on the creativity of their teams. While many individual managers are doing an excellent job of managing and developing their teams, there is little wider recognition of people management in the creative sector. It’s hard to develop a skill that goes unrecognised. And you don't need me to tell you that managing temperamental creatives can be one of the most challenging jobs going. So how do you meet the challenge? I'm willing to bet that you ﬁnd most books on management a bit of a turn-off. You've probably left or avoided the corporate world because it's not an environment you feel comfortable with. I know how you feel. As a poet who moved from consulting for large organisations to specialising n the creative sector, I can clearly remember the day I walked into an ad agency and instantly felt at home. Call me superﬁcial, but given the choice between cubicles and suits, or a colourful studio with electric guitars and table football on standby, I know which I prefer. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 4 But creativity needs more than bean-bags and Playstations. And if creativity is your business, you know there's a lot more to it than 'thinking outside the box'. For one thing, you probably have to think inside a few boxes - such as the budget and brief, and your client or audience's tolerance levels. So while you need to encourage blue-sky thinking and risk-taking, you also need to make things happen on time, on budget and to keep the end users happy. Give people too much creative freedom and they may have a blast working on the project - only to end up frustrated when the client or audience 'don't get it'. But if you play it too safe, your creatives will feel constrained and everyone will be underwhelmed by the ﬁnal result. Not an easy balancing act to pull off. Even before you factor in a few creative egos. Plus the fact that creative people are not satisﬁed with just doing the job - they want to be challenged and inspired on every project, every day. They want opportunities to learn and hone their skills. And if they don't get them in your team, sooner or later they'll start to look elsewhere. A lot of it comes down to what you say and do with people day-in-day out. How well you listen. What questions you ask. How you deliver tricky feedback. How well you ﬁnd the right ﬁt between people's talents and motivations and the task in hand. How easily you pick up the subtle signals that alert to you to problems before they blow up in your face. In short, how well you facilitate the idiosyncratic creative process of everyone on your team . Now 'business coaching' may not sound like the most inspiring activity in the world, but it does offer you an effective approach to managing and developing creative people. It's not a miracle solution, or a step-by-step model, but it provides practical answers to the following questions: • How can you allow people creative freedom while keeping a grip on deadlines and deliverables? • How can you develop people's skills while keeping them productive? • How can you stimulate creative thinking in others? • How can you avoid the temptation to micro-manage people? • Why don't people do what they're supposed to do? • How can you keep people motivated while giving them bad news? • How can you be yourself while adapting to others' needs? • When is it better to keep your mouth shut? This e-book introduces the core principles and skills of business coaching. It considers the role of the manager and how coaching complements other management styles. It describes the most common model for structuring coaching sessions. It also challenges you to think about coaching as an informal process, in which every workplace conversation becomes a coaching opportunity. The e-book also touches on ways a coaching consultant can help you and your colleagues develop your effectiveness as a management team - but I don't assume you need a consultant to get started. After all, you've probably done a lot of great coaching already, without necessarily Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 5 putting that label on it. Hopefully the e-book will raise your awareness of your existing skills and encourage you to do more of 'what works' in future. Some of the material in the e-book is similar to that found in other books on business coaching (a few of which I recommend in Chapter 13). What is different is my emphasis on the speciﬁc challenges facing leaders of creative teams, and how coaching can develop the individual and collective creative talent of a business. I hope this e-book gives you some food for thought about the challenges you face in managing talented creative professionals - and some ideas that will make your job a little easier and more rewarding. Mark McGuinness March 2008 Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 6 2. What Is Business Coaching? Photo by urbancow Here’s my simple deﬁnition of business coaching: A focused conversation that facilitates learning and raises performance at work The ‘coach’ can be either a manager or an external consultant. The ‘coachee’ (yes, I know it’s a horrible word, I’ll avoid it as much as I can) can be anyone who wants to get better at their work. While coaching sometimes takes place in designated coaching sessions it is also used by many organisations as a style of management, and takes place in a series of informal discussions between managers and their staff as they go about their daily business. In Eric Parsloe and Monica Wray’s words, this is coaching as ‘the way we do things round here’ (Coaching and Mentoring - see Chapter 13 for details of books). There are many other deﬁnitions in the business coaching literature. Some focus on coaching’s collaborative, conversational style: Coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused, result-oriented and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self- directed learning and personal growth of individuals from normal (i.e. non-clinical) populations. (Jane Greene and Anthony M Grant, Solution-Focused Coaching) Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 7 Other deﬁnitions emphasise the dual function of coaching - improving performance and facilitating learning. For example: ‘A manager’s task is simple – to get the job done and to grow his staff. Time and cost pressures limit the latter. Coaching is one process with both effects.’ (John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance) ‘• Coaching is an approach to management – how one carries out the role of being a manager • Coaching is a set of skills for managing employee performance to deliver results Being a coach means that you see and approach the role of a manager as a leader: one who challenges and develops your employees’ skills and abilities to achieve the best performance results.’ (Marty Brounstein, Coaching and Mentoring for Dummies) Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of business coaching conversations. A collaborative style The words ‘coach’ and ‘coachee’ are slightly unfortunate in implying that the coach is a senior person who is there to dispense wisdom and advice. In fact, coaching can take place between peers and even ‘upwards’ with a more junior person coaching a senior, as well as in the classic manager-team member relationship. Coaching is a collaborative process, in which people have clearly deﬁned roles: the coach is responsible for keeping the conversation focused on a clearly deﬁned goal, facilitating the other person’s thinking, keeping track of progress and delivering constructive feedback; the coachee is responsible for generating ideas and options, taking action to achieve the goal, and reporting progress. One of the commonest ways for coaching to get stuck is when these responsibilities are confused - for example, if the coach becomes attached to a particular way of doing things, and starts to tell the coachee what to do. Focusing on goals rather than problems One deﬁnition of coaching is that it is a ‘goal focused conversation’ - the goal is deﬁned as quickly as possible, and the rest of the conversation is directed towards achieving it. Throughout the conversation, the coach will be keeping the following question in mind: ‘How is this discussion helping this person achieve their goal?’. If the goal is lost sight of, it is the coach’s responsibility to bring it back on track. Even when the conversation begins with a problem, as quickly as possible the coach and coachee work to deﬁne what the solution will look like. Coaching then focuses on how to reach Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 8 that solution. This can take a bit of getting used to - our habitual tendency is to spend a lot of time analysing problems to work out what caused them and who was to blame. A coach does not assume this is necessary - often all you need to do is clearly deﬁne what you want to happen differently in future and work towards that. Listening more than you talk Good business coaches are not bigmouths. While sports coaches often need to shout at players and ‘ﬁre them up’ for a game, business coaching is very different. Watch a business coach or manager during a session and you are likely to see her doing most of the listening and creating space and time for the other person to talk. It will be obvious that the coach is giving the other person their undivided attention. For the person being coached, this can be a powerful experience - when was the last time someone in your workplace put everything aside and made it clear that they were 100% focused on listening to you and helping you reach your goals? Being the focus of attention in this way can make a refreshing change - it also makes it clear that you will be expected to deliver on the commitments you make during the conversation. Asking questions instead of giving advice or instructions Even when a coach ‘knows’ the answer to a question, s/he will typically ask the other person for his ideas rather than tell him. This is because one of the main aims of coaching is to facilitate someone’s thinking and get them to use their own creativity and initiative. If you tell someone what to do, you take away a learning opportunity and condition them to rely on you for guidance. This can be difﬁcult for new managers, or those who have a lot of expertise in the area in which they are coaching - the temptation to tell someone how to do it or even do it yourself can be irresistible! The ability to act as a facilitator rather than a performer or instructor is one of the hallmarks of an outstanding coach. Giving observational feedback instead of making judgments Coaches have a low tolerance for poor performance, so they deliver feedback in the way that is most likely to effect a change in behaviour. This often means avoiding pronouncing judgement in favour of giving speciﬁc, observational feedback that helps people examine their own performance and come up with better options for the next time. So a coach would be unlikely to say ‘You didn’t handle that meeting very well’ - this is a vague judgement that could mean anything and immediately puts the other person on the defensive. Instead, the coach might ask ‘Did you see the look on the client’s face when you told her we couldn’t change the text at this stage?’ - which draws attention to the consequences of a speciﬁc action and invites reﬂection on whether it would be better to do things differently in future. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 9 3. Coaching Is Not Training, Mentoring or Counselling Photo by Jon In the previous chapter I answered the question What Is Business Coaching? Now I’ll sharpen up that deﬁnition by distinguishing coaching from other approaches - training, mentoring and counselling. Coaching is not Training While training and coaching both promote learning, they do so in different ways: • Training is about teaching speciﬁc skills or knowledge - Coaching is about facilitating someone else’s thinking and helping them learn by working on live work issues. • Training usually takes place off-site or in dedicated training sessions - Coaching takes place in the ofﬁce and (when carried out by a manager) can be integrated into day-to-day workplace conversations. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 10 • Training is more typically carried out in groups - Coaching is usually a one-to-one process and is tailored to the individual’s needs. • Training is usually delivered by an external consultant or dedicated internal trainer - Coaching can be delivered by an external consultant or by a manager. Although they are distinct activities, training and coaching can work very well when used together. One classic obstacle encountered in business training is the difﬁculty of transferring skills and enthusiasm from the training room to the workplace. Coaching is an excellent way of helping people apply what they learn from a course to their day-to-day work. A research study found that post-course training had a dramatic effect on the effectiveness of one training programme - the paper is available here or via Amazon. Coaching is not Mentoring There are some superﬁcial similarities between coaching and mentoring, as they are both typically one-to-one conversations aimed at facilitating professional development, but there are also signiﬁcant differences: • A Mentor is usually a more senior person who shares experience and advises a junior person working in the same ﬁeld - A Coach is not necessarily senior to the person being coached, and does not typically give advice or necessarily pass on experience; instead s/he uses questions and feedback to facilitate the other person’s thinking and practical learning. • A Mentor is not typically the line manager of the person being mentored, but someone who is available for advice and guidance when needed - Coaching is frequently delivered by line managers with their teams. Coaching is not Counselling Again, there may be a superﬁcial similarity in that both of these activities are one-to-one conversations, but their tone and purpose are very different: • Counselling and therapy typically deal with personal problems - Coaching addresses workplace performance. • Counselling usually begins with a problem - Coaching can begin with a goal or aspiration. • Counselling is sought by people having difﬁculties - Coaching is used by high achievers as much as beginners or people who are stuck. • Many (but not all) forms of Counselling focus on the past and the origins of problems - Coaching focuses on the future and developing a workable solution. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 11 4. Different Types of Coaching Photo by Monica’s Dad Following on from the differences between Coaching, Training, Mentoring and Counselling, this chapter will look at different types of coaching. These should not be seen as rigid categories but areas of specialisation, and many coaches work in more than one of these areas. Sports coaching This is what many people think of when they hear the word ‘coach’. The term ’sports coach’ encompasses a wide range of roles and approaches, from the football manager on the touchline, through one-to-one coaches for athletes and players, to specialist coaches for ﬁtness and health. There are also coaches who focus on the ‘mental game’, helping sports players ﬁne-tune their psychological preparation for high-pressure events. Several coaches have bridged the gap between sports and business coaching. Tennis pro Timothy Gallwey proposed a radical new approach to tennis coaching in his book The Inner Game of Tennis, which he later adapted for business in The Inner Game of Work. Another coaching classic is Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore, a former champion racing driver, which is chieﬂy concerned with coaching as an approach to management in business. Another example of Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 12 a cross-over between sports and business coaching is The Little Book of Coaching by business author Ken Blanchard and the American football coach Don Shula. Life coaching A life coach works with clients to help them achieve their goals and reach fulﬁlment, in the personal and/or professional sphere. Finding a healthy balance and integration between work and personal life is often a key feature of life coaching. Coaching can encompass a wide range of issues, from inner work on thoughts and emotions through relationships with signiﬁcant others, to very speciﬁc career goals and practical action plans. The difference between life coaching and business coaching is often one of degree of emphasis, and will depend on the individual coach and client. Broadly speaking, in life coaching the main focus of attention is on the client’s life as a whole; while in business coaching, the main focus is on someone’s work, while recognising that truly effective professional development requires a healthy balance between work and other areas of life. Another difference between life coaching and business coaching is that life coaching clients are more likely to be private individuals, whereas business coaches are more typically employed by organisations. There are exceptions - some companies engage life coaches to help their employees balance their personal and professional needs, and business coaches are also hired by individuals to help them achieve their career goals. Business coaching Business coaching is primarily concerned with improving performance at work and facilitating professional development. Formerly conﬁned to senior management and known as ‘Executive coaching’, the more general term ‘Business coaching’ recognises the importance of coaching for people at all levels within an organisation. Whereas coaching was formerly identiﬁed with external consultants brought in to provide a fresh perspective and specialist expertise, many companies now expect their managers to act as coaches for their teams. In the next two chapters, I will look at the differences in the type of coaching provided by external consultants and managers. My version of business coaching - ‘coaching creative professionals’ I’m a slightly unusual business coach in that I work mostly with creative professionals. I describe myself as a business coach rather than a life coach because the main focus of my coaching is on my clients’ work - their creative process, their working relationships and their professional goals. Working within the creative industries however, the line between the personal and professional is often blurred, since most artists and creatives seek to make a career out of their passion rather than to keep the two separate. I describe my clients as ‘creative professionals’ to emphasise the importance of balancing creativity, authenticity, and a professional approach to high-level creative performance. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 13 This may be a good place to point out that I do not believe the term ‘creative’ should be reserved for the creative department - it includes everyone involved in the creative process, whether as writer, artist, designer, performer, programmer, director, manager, producer, editor, account handler, planner, marketer or client. And maybe even the artist formerly known as ‘the audience’. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 14 5. The External Coach or Coaching Consultant Photo by Francois Schnell Having looked at Different Types of Coaching, in this chapter and the next I will outline the two basic roles for coaches in business: the external coach (or coaching consultant); and the internal coach (usually a line manager). The external coach An external coach is a consultant brought into the organisation to work with individuals and/or teams, usually in sessions lasting 1-2 hours. Ideally the coaching conversation is a face-to-face meeting, at least for the ﬁrst few sessions, although the phone and now webcam are increasingly used, as they allow for greater ﬂexibility in scheduling appointments. Coaching sessions are often interspersed with e-mail reports on agreed action items. Below are some of the advantages of using an external coach. It is important to remember that these advantages do not make external coaches intrinsically ‘better’ than internal (manager) coaches - just different. The two roles complement each other. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 15 In many respects, the position of an external coach is a privileged one, since she is free from many of the restrictions that apply to managers - so there is a responsibility to use these advantages wisely, for the beneﬁt of the individuals being coached and the organisation as a whole. Advantages of using an external coach A fresh perspective An external coach brings a fresh perspective on people and events in the organisation. This means she can notice patterns and make connections that are not apparent to those on the inside. So she can act as a valuable ’sounding board’ for people’s thinking - by asking questions, listening and giving feedback from her perspective as an outsider. A strong focus on the client’s needs Because the external coach does not have the direct responsibilities of a manager, it is relatively easy to devote her entire attention to the client’s needs during the session. This can lead to an intensive, high-energy form of coaching that can produce signiﬁcant results in a short time. In longer term coaching, it can provide a very strong foundation for an individual’s development. A conﬁdential forum for discussion Because the coaching session is conﬁdential between coach and coachee, people sometimes feel more comfortable discussing sensitive information or personal concerns with an external coach than with their line manager. This can lead to resolution of ‘unspoken’ problems that have been interfering with critical business processes. Highly developed coaching skills External coaches have typically received a more extensive coaching training than managers, and have spent more time coaching people. This means the organisation beneﬁts from highly developed coaching skills and a wealth of coaching experience. Specialist expertise In addition to their core coaching skills, many external coaches have specialist expertise that makes them particularly suited to certain coaching assignments. Specialisms can include leadership, sales, negotiation, mediation, presentation skills, creativity, psychology and emotional intelligence. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 16 6. The Manager as Coach Photo by wili_hybrid Following on from the last chapter about The External Coach or Coaching Consultant, this one looks at the the role played by a manager as a coach for his or her team. Many people, when they hear the phrase ‘business coach’ think of an external consultant. Yet managers can have a powerful inﬂuence on their teams and the organisation as a whole when they adopt a coaching style of management. As a way of managing people, coaching differs from the traditional corporate ‘command and control’ approach in the following ways: • collaborating instead of controlling • delegating more responsibility • talking less, listening more • giving fewer orders, asking more questions • giving speciﬁc feedback instead of making judgments This is not simply a case of ‘being nicer’ to people - delegated responsibility brings pressure to perform and coaching managers maintain a rigorous focus on goals and results. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 17 The role of the manager-coach is very different to that of an external coach. Whereas an external coach has the luxury of a laser-like focus on the coachee and his development and performance, the manager-coach needs to balance the needs of the coachee, other team members and the organisation as a whole. Some people argue that it is impossible for a manager to act as a coach, given her position of authority over her team. While authority is an important issue, it need not be an insurmountable obstacle - as long as there is genuine trust and respect in the working relationship. It is also a fact that coaching frequently takes place between peers and even upwards on occasion, with some enlightened bosses happy to be coached by their team members. In his book Coaching for Performance John Whitmore raises the issue of managerial responsibility and authority, and asks ‘Can the manager, therefore, be a coach at all?’: Yes, but it demands the highest qualities of that manager: empathy, integrity and detachment, as well as a willingness, in most cases, to adopt a fundamentally different approach to his staff… he may even have to cope with initial resistance from some of his staff, suspicious of any departure from traditional management. (p.16) Advantages of manager-coaches In-depth knowledge of people and the organisation However well an external coach listens and observes, she does not have the same level of exposure to the organisation and its people as a manager, so will never have the same depth of knowledge about them. Longer term relationships Because managers spend more time with their team members, they have the opportunity to get to know them better and build a solid foundation of mutual trust and respect, which is essential to an effective coaching relationship. More opportunities for inﬂuence Managers’ contact with staff is not conﬁned to formal coaching sessions - they are constantly interacting with their team members and have many opportunities to inﬂuence them. So what’s in it for the manager? It’s probably fairly obvious that coaching beneﬁts the people being coached - but what about the manager? If you are a busy manager, can you afford the time and effort required, when you already have plenty of other demands to cope with? I would argue that coaching is not a case of ‘giving up’ your time and energy to helping others achieve their goals and solve their problems - it will also beneﬁt you in the following ways: Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 18 A more committed team Empowerment is a powerful motivator. When you make a genuine effort to include people in setting their own goals, making decisions and implement their own ideas, they are likely to become more committed and focused at work. Better team performance Because of its dual functions of managing performance and developing people, coaching leads to better individual and collective performance. The ongoing learning process means that the upward curve can get steeper over time. Better working relationships Good coaching promotes trust and collaboration, and leads to better working relationships. It doesn’t mean you become everyone’s best friend, but it does mean working relationships can get easier and more enjoyable (or in some cases at least less stressful) for all concerned. Better ideas When you get into the habit of asking questions to draw out people’s creativity, you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of ideas people come up with. After a while, you may not need to ask every time - they will get into the habit of bringing you suggestions. Better information If you are genuinely coaching people in a collaborative, open spirit, people will feel more conﬁdent in coming to you with vital information - including telling you the ‘bad news’ while there is still time to do something about it. Investing time to gain time There is no doubt that in the short term it’s often quicker to ‘take charge’ and give orders instead of coaching. That’s ﬁne for ‘ﬁre ﬁghting’, but in the long term, the more you direct, the more people will rely on you for directions, and the more of your time will be swallowed up by it. If you invest time in coaching however, over time your people will require less and less direction, and you will be conﬁdent in delegating more and more to them - freeing up your time for the tasks only you can accomplish. Comparing external and internal coaches If we compare the advantages of using coaching consultant and having managers act as coaches, we can see that they are complementary: External (consultant) coach Internal (manager) coach A fresh perspective In-depth knowledge of the organisation and people Strong focus on the individual Balancing individual and team needs Effective short-term interventions Longer-term relationships Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 19 The decision on which type of coach to use, or whether to use a combination of the two, will depend on the needs of the individual, team and organisation. ‘Coaching the coach’ One very common way for external and internal coaches to work together is when a coaching consultant is brought in to ‘coach the coach’ - i.e. to help a manager develop his coaching skills. This can be a very effective (and time-efﬁcient) way of helping managers develop their skills, particularly with experienced managers who know the basics and want to reﬁne their skills or deal with more complex people management challenges. Another form of coaching the coach is when managers coach each other on developing their coaching skills. Coaching has the biggest impact on an organisation when it ‘cascades’ through the management ranks, with senior managers coaching juniors to be better coaches, who in turn coach their juniors (and sometimes vice-versa). At this point, coaching behaviours become the norm - part of ‘the way we do things round here’. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 20 7. Coaching and Leadership Photo by Thiru Murugan As a business coach myself, you won’t be surprised to hear me advocate coaching as an effective approach to leadership. But there’s there’s no one-size-ﬁts-all approach when dealing with people, so it’s important to see coaching in context, to understand where, when and how it can be effective for leaders - and what the alternatives are. In their well-known book Leadership and the One Minute Manager Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi present coaching as one of four basic leadership styles - Directing, Coaching, Supporting and Delegating. They argue that managers need to be ﬂexible in adopting the most effective style for any given situation. In a similar spirit, Daniel Goleman wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called ‘Leadership that Gets Results’, in which he argued that managers should utilise ‘a collection of distinct leadership styles - each in the right measure, at just the right time’. The analogy he used (no doubt familiar to corporate executives) was of a bag of golf clubs: Over the course of a game, the pro picks and chooses clubs based on the demands of the shot. Sometimes he has to ponder his selection, but usually it is automatic. The pro senses the challenge ahead, swiftly pulls out the right tool, and elegantly puts it to work. That’s how high-impact leaders operate, too. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 21 What makes Goleman’s article really interesting is his presentation of a research project carried out by the consulting ﬁrm Hay/McBer, into the relative effectiveness of different leadership styles. He begins by identifying six basic leadership styles: 1. Coercive - demanding compliance 2. Authoritative - mobilizing people towards a vision 3. Afﬁliative - building relationships and promoting harmony 4. Democratic - promoting consensus through participation 5. Pacesetting - setting high standards by example and demanding the same of others 6. Coaching - delegating responsibility and developing people for success Here’s Goleman’s characterization of the coaching style of leadership: Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations. They encourage employees to establish long- term development goals and help them conceptualize a plan for attaining them. They make agreements with their employees about their role and responsibilities in enacting development plans, and they give plentiful instruction and feedback. I’m not sure I agree that good coaches habitually give ‘plentiful instruction’ - coaching usually involves asking questions rather than giving instructions - but that aside, this is a good summary of the coaching style of leadership. As Goleman points out, ‘Coaching leaders excel at delegating’ - the key to their leadership is their ability to help people identify their personal and professional goals, and act as facilitators, letting individuals take responsibility for their own success. Once the researchers had deﬁned these six leadership styles, they assessed the impact of each style on ‘climate’, a term devised by psychologists to assess the ‘working atmosphere’ of an organisation. Climate is deﬁned in terms of the following six factors: 1. Flexibility (freedom to innovate without being shackled with red tape) 2. Responsibility 3. Standards (set by people in the organisation) 4. Rewards (how accurate and fair these are) 5. Clarity (about mission and values) 6. Commitment According to the researchers, of the six leadership styles, two of them - Coercive and Pacesetting - had a negative impact on climate. It’s no great surprise that Coercive was the least effective leadership style, except in emergencies. Few managers who really think about impact of their behaviour on others are likely to habitually coerce people into obedience. Perhaps more Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 22 surprising was the fact that the Pacesetting style had a negative effect on climate. After all, isn’t setting a good example one of the things we expect of a leader? In fact, the pacesetting style destroys climate. Many employees feel overwhelmed by the pacesetter’s demands for excellence, and their morale drops. Guidelines for working may he clear in the leader’s head, but she does not state them clearly… Work becomes not a matter of doing one’s best along a clear course so much as second-guessing what the leader wants. At the same time, people often feel that the pacesetter doesn’t trust them to work in their own way or to take initiative… As for rewards, the pacesetter either gives no feedback on how people are doing or jumps in to take over when he thinks they’re lagging. This reads to me like an inverted coaching style - the emphasis is on the leader rather than the team, outcomes are not clearly described or checked for mutual understanding, responsibility is not delegated and feedback is either non-existent or clumsily delivered. Moving onto the styles with a positive impact on climate, the most effective leadership style was ‘Authoritative’. Again, this is no great surprise - the core function of a leader is to identify a goal and inspire others to achieve it. The authoritative leader is a visionary - he motivates people by making clear to them how their work ﬁts into a larger vision for the organization. People who work for such leaders understand that what they do matters and why. Authoritative leadership also maximizes commitment to the organization’s goals and strategy. By framing the individual tasks within a grand vision, the authoritative leader deﬁnes standards that revolve around that vision. When he gives performance feedback - whether positive or negative - the singular criterion is whether or not that performance furthers the vision. The three remaining styles (Afﬁliative, Democratic and Coaching) scored lower than Authoritative, but all had a positive impact on climate, scoring about the same as each other. So each of these styles is clearly important for a well-rounded approach to leadership, although none of them stick out as more important than the others. Where coaching did stick out like a sore thumb however, was in the fact that it was the most neglected of the leadership styles: Of the six styles, our research found that the coaching style is used least often. Many leaders told us they don’t have the time in this high-pressure economy for the slow and tedious work of teaching people and helping them grow. But after a ﬁrst session, it takes little or no extra time. Leaders who ignore this style are passing up a powerful tool: its impact on climate and performance are markedly positive. When I ﬁrst read this article it conﬁrmed my feeling that coaching is the tortoise compared to the hare of some charisma-based leadership styles, or the more glamorous, guru-centric approaches to personal development. I’m not saying there isn’t value in a charismatic, high-energy approach, but I do wonder about the end product. For example, I sometimes hear people report amazing experiences on personal development weekends with a famous speaker, from which they return full of plans and enthusiasm - but a few weeks later there’s nothing much to show for it. When asked, they usually say that it was a valuable experience to see such an inspiring speaker, but that they were probably being a bit unrealistic in some of the plans they made. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 23 Similarly, the danger with a Pacesetting leadership style is the fact that the focus is on the leader rather than the team. By comparison, coaching might look a less dynamic style of leadership - the leader listens more than she talks, asking questions and making sure commitments are recorded and followed up - but it does ensure that things get done. And the person being coached is centre-stage, with all the opportunity and responsibility that implies. As Goleman puts it: Although the coaching style may not scream ‘bottom-line results,’ it delivers them. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 24 8. Key Coaching Skills Photo by StaR_DusT Having looked at the big picture of Coaching and Leadership, I’m now going to focus on the small picture of the key skills involved in coaching. • Goal setting • Looking • Listening • Empathising • Questioning • Giving feedback • Intuiting • Checking Most of these appear on any standard list of coaching skills, with one or two additions of my own. Some of them, such as goal-setting or giving feedback, are to some extent susceptible to being broken down into discrete steps and taught; others, such as empathising and intuiting, are Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 25 abilities that a coach naturally possesses, or which emerge over time as a result of practising the other skills. Goal setting Coaching is a goal-focused (or solution-focused) approach, so the ability to elicit clear, well- deﬁned and emotionally engaging goals from a coachee is one of the most important skills for a coach to possess. Like many aspects of coaching, there are both formal and informal aspects of this ability. On the formal side, a coach needs to know how and when to introduce goal-setting into the coaching process, and will usually be familiar with models such as SMART goals (a SMART goal is Speciﬁc, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Timed). On the informal side, a coach will typically have the habit of thinking and asking questions from a goal-focused mindset. For example, ‘How does doing x help you reach your goal?’ helps the coachee to evaluate whether what she is doing will help or hinder her. Another common habit of a good coach is reframing problems as goals - e.g. if a coachee talks about the problems he his having with a ‘difﬁcult’ colleague, the coach might ask ‘What needs to be happening for you to have a workable relationship with this person?’. Looking A good deal is rightly written about the importance of listening in coaching, but looking is often (ahem) overlooked. When running coaching skills seminars, I often say to the trainee coaches ‘The answer is right in front of you’. Meaning that the person’s body language tells you a huge amount about her emotional state and level of commitment, yet it’s so easy to ignore that if we are too focused on our own ideas about what needs to happen next. Another obstacle to looking is a company culture in which people have been conditioned to focus on processes and tasks at the expense of human relationships, so that people can stop seeing each other as human beings, but merely ‘managers’, ’staff’ or [insert job title here]. This is often compounded (in the UK at least) by a general sense that ‘it’s rude to stare’ - with the result that the coach literally stops seeing what is in front of her eyes, and misses valuable information about how the coachee is thinking and feeling. The good news is that as soon as coaches are encouraged to actually look at the person in front of them, they nearly always ‘get’ how the other person is feeling, and this opens up new options for moving the conversation forward. Listening This is often referred to as ‘active listening’ to emphasise the difference between passively taking in what the other person is saying and actively engaging with them and showing that you are giving them your undivided attention. This involves putting your own concerns and idea ‘in a box’ while you listen, so can be particularly challenging for manager-coaches, but it’s a skill well worth developing. You can probably remember the last time someone put everything else aside and gave you their full attention - it’s a powerful experience, partly because it’s so rare. By listening intently to someone else, you send a powerful double message - ﬁrstly, that you are there to support them in Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 26 whatever they are doing, secondly, that you are paying attention and expect them to follow through on any commitments they make. There are various techniques and models used to teach active listening, but the easiest and most genuine approach is simply to become genuinely interested in the other person and curious about what they can achieve. Empathising Empathy develops naturally out of looking and listening. If you do this attentively, you can start to ‘get a feeling’ for the other person’s emotional state. Some people experience empathy as a powerful physical sensation - they literally seem to feel the other person’s emotions. (Scientists have linked this phenomenon to the operation of mirror neurons.) For others it’s more like being able to imagine what it’s like to be ‘in the other’s shoes’. The ability to empathise with the coachee is critical to the coaching process, as it not only helps the coach to accept the other person on their own terms, but also sometimes to ‘tune in’ to emotions and thoughts of which they are not fully aware. E.g. ‘I’m starting to feel quite angry when I hear you talk about what your boss said to you - was that how you felt?’. Focusing on someone else for a sustained period can be tiring at ﬁrst, but if you stay with it you will experience one of the great secrets of coaching - that empathising with another person can be a fascinating and enjoyable experience for you as well as the coachee. I often ﬁnd myself looking forward to coaching sessions partly because I know it will take me outside my usual self- oriented state - at the end of the session, when I come back to my own concerns, I’m likely to see them with a fresh eye. Questioning If I had to pick one thing that distinguished coaching from other approaches to communication, management and learning, I would say ‘Questions’. At the heart of coaching is a willingness to put aside one’s own ideas about the ‘best/right/obvious way’ to do something, and to ask a question to elicit someone else’s ideas about how to approach it. For me as a coach, asking questions is an expression of my curiosity about life in general and human creativity in particular. For coachees, being asked a question can do three very important things: 1. Focus attention - questions are not directive, but they are inﬂuential. They prompt the coachee to look for a new idea or solution in a particular area. Experienced coaches are adept at using questions to help people step outside the ‘problem mindset’ and look for answers in unexpected places. 2. Elicit new ideas - however ‘obvious’ the answer may seem to the coach, it’s amazing how often a coachee will come up with several different and often better alternatives. Unless you ask the question, you risk leaving the coachee’s creativity untapped. 3. Foster commitment - there’s a huge difference between doing something because someone has told you to or suggested it, and doing something that you have dreamt up yourself. Even if a coachee comes up with the same idea the coach had in mind, the fact that she has thought it through herself means she will have a much greater sense of ownership and commitment when putting into practice. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 27 Giving feedback This is always a hot topic when I run coaching seminars. It’s a big subject, but the key to delivering effective coaching feedback is that it is observational and non-judgemental. If you provide clear, speciﬁc feedback about the coachee’s actions and their consequences, then the chances are the coachee will be perfectly capable of evaluating his performance for himself. Giving ‘negative feedback’ is often a delicate process, but the following principles will make it easier and more effective for everyone concerned: • Make sure you’ve already given plenty of positive feedback. If you have a track record of giving open, honest praise to someone, it makes it far easier than if you only jump in to criticise when things go wrong. • Appreciate (or at least acknowledge) the PERSON - deliver feedback on speciﬁc BEHAVIOUR. You don’t need to rebuild someone’s personality to help them learn and change, merely to them do something different. • Focus on the FUTURE more than the PAST. Sometimes it’s helpful to analyse the past and what went wrong, but beware of getting stuck in accusations and defensiveness. If this happens, switch to ﬁnding new options for the future. • Avoid blame, make REQUESTS. Faced with blame, all we can do is defend ourselves. Faced with a request, we have the option of accepting, rejecting or negotiating. One keeps us stuck, the other may get us unstuck. Intuiting Like empathy, this is either an innate ability or emerges from practising the other coaching skills. Sometimes during a coaching session you can get a sudden thought or feeling about the coachee or the subject under discussion - it’s as if something were prompting you to ask a question or share what you’re thinking/feeling. It doesn’t matter whether you call this a hunch, an intuition, a sixth sense, mirror neurons or your unconscious mind - what does matter is how willing you are to trust this feeling and act on it. Sometimes the effect can be like a thunderbolt - the other person can’t believe how you’ve ‘picked up’ something vitally important that they hadn’t been fully aware of. Other times, the coachee looks at you blankly and it turns out your ‘insight’ is either obvious or useless. Because of this uncertainty, it’s very important not to get too attached to our coaching intuition, and to always check whether it matches the coachee’s reality… Checking I’ve not seen this listed as a separate skill in coaching books, but for me it’s one of the most important habits for a coach to get into, and it can take considerable skill to know what, when and how to check. It might seem pedantic or boring relative to the ideas and energy encountered elsewhere in the coaching conversation, but if you don’t keep checking, you risk letting all that creativity and enthusiasm evaporate. Here’s a brief (ahem) checklist of things I typically check in coaching sessions: Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 28 • Checking understanding. Making sure that I’ve understood what the coachee is saying. Often involves asking ‘dumb questions’ and summarising the answers in the coachee’s own words. • Checking that the client is happy. A verbal agreement is no good unless the person is also enthused or at least congruent in taking action on the goal. I’m constantly checking this by looking and listening for nonverbal cues, but at key points I also ask directly ‘Are you happy with this?’ • Checking that all the bases have been covered. Exploring some areas in depth can mean that other areas are overlooked. The coach can help overcome this tendency by asking questions such as ‘Is there anything else you need to consider?’, or ‘Do you know enough to move forward on this?’. • Checking whether the coachee has taken action. If the coachee commits to doing something, you need to have an agreed means of reporting on this. Ideally the client should own this process, but the coach also needs to keep an eye on it, to ensure that things don’t get forgotten. • Checking whether the goal has been reached. This might sound obvious, but sometimes coachees can get so involved in working on a goal that they don’t register when they have achieved what they set out to do. Alternatively, they may have a sense of ‘problem solved’ but on closer inspection, there’s still more to do. So a coach can perform a valuable role by asking some probing questions towards the end of the coaching process, to check whether the client is happy with the outcome. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 29 9. The GROW Coaching Model Photo by exportryan The GROW model is probably the most common coaching model used in business. It was devised by Sir John Whitmore and described in his book Coaching For Performance. It offers a way of structuring coaching sessions to facilitate a balanced discussion: GOAL - deﬁning what you want to achieve REALITY - exploring the current situation, relevant history and likely future trends OPTIONS - coming up with new ideas for reaching the goal WHAT/WHO/WHEN - deciding on a concrete plan of action In practice, since most coaching is driven by questions, this means that different types of question are used at each stage: • GOAL - questions to deﬁne the goal as clearly as possible and also to evoke an emotional response. ‘What do you want to achieve? What will be different when you achieve it? What’s important about this for you?’ Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 30 • REALITY - questions to elicit speciﬁc details of the situation and context. ‘What is happening now? Who is involved? What is their outcome? What is likely to happen in future?’ • OPTIONS - open-ended questions to facilitate creative thinking ‘What could you do? What ideas can you bring in from past successes? What haven’t you tried yet?’ • WHAT - focused questions to get an agreement to speciﬁc actions and criteria for success ‘What will you do? When will you do it? Who do you need to involve? When should you see results?’ Used judiciously, the GROW model offers an excellent framework for structuring a coaching session. It is particularly useful for beginners, helping them to see the wood for the trees and keep the session on track. However, Whitmore is at pains to emphasise that models and structures are not the heart of coaching: GROW, without the context of AWARENESS and RESPONSIBILITY, and the skill of questioning to generate them, has little value. I prefer to think of the GROW model as a compass for orientation rather than a rigid sequence of steps to be followed. I don’t think I’ve ever taken part in a coaching session that began with Goals, then progressed smoothly through an analysis of Reality, then brainstormed Options before settling on the What?/When?/Who? and How? of an action plan. Coaching can begin at any of the four stages of the GROW model. A coachee might begin by telling you about something she wants to achieve (Goal), a current problem (Reality), a new idea for improving things (Options) or by outlining an action plan (What). As a coach, it’s usually a good idea to follow the coachee’s lead initially by asking a few questions to elicit more detail, then move onto the other steps. Personally, I always start a coaching conversation by asking a goal-focused question (e.g. ‘So what do you want to achieve?’) as a way of setting the tone for the discussion. Sometimes the coachee replies with a description of a problem (Reality) which is ﬁne - I’ll listen, probe for a few details then as soon as possible return to Goals, to keep the conversation focused. On the other hand, if someone comes to me full of ideas and enthusiasm (Goals, Options), I’ll do my best to help them maintain this while taking account of hard facts (Reality) and getting a commitment to speciﬁc action (What). As so often with coaching, the important principle is balance. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 31 10. Formal and Informal Coaching Photo by timbomb The word 'coaching' conjures up an image of a one-to-one session scheduled in the diary, focusing exclusively on the coachee's goals and how s/he can work towards them. And a lot of coaching does take place in this format, particularly when delivered by an external coach. For a manager-coach however, the picture is not quite so clear. Formal coaching sessions are a powerful way of using coaching with her team, and should never be undervalued - yet she also has the option of using coaching informally, integrating the coaching approach into her everyday conversations with her team, so that it becomes part of her basic approach to management. In their book Solution-Focused Coaching, Jane Green and Anthony Grant talk of a 'coaching continuum': In-house workplace coaching lies on a continuum from the formal structured workplace coaching at one end to the informal, on-the-run workplace coaching at the other - what you might call corridor coaching: the few minutes snatched in the corridor in the midst of a busy project. The two types of coaching are not mutually exclusive - many effective coaching managers use both styles in complementary ways. Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 32 Formal coaching Informal coaching Used explicitly Used explicitly or implicitly Scheduled appointments Everyday workplace conversations Programme with beginning and Ongoing process, a style of end management Most of the conversation in Manager can switch from coaching ‘coaching mode’ mode to other management styles Formal coaching The most obvious characteristic of formal coaching is that coaching is being used explicitly - during the coaching session both parties are clear that they are engaged in 'coaching' and are committed to this process as well as the outcome. Formal coaching usually takes place during scheduled appointments, so that time is set aside speciﬁcally for coaching work. By having dedicated sessions, the manager sends a powerful signal to individual team members that their development and success is important, and that she is there to provide support. When a series of appointments are scheduled, coaching becomes a clearly deﬁned programme, with the possibility of a deﬁnable beginning and end. This can have a motivating effect, with the well-known phenomenon of 'deadline magic' coming into play towards the end of the coaching process, when both coach and coachee focus their efforts on achieving the goal(s) within the allotted time. The clear parameters of formal coaching mean that both coach and coachee tend to spend most coaching sessions in coaching mode - i.e. with the coachee doing most of the talking, and the coach primarily engaged in listening, asking questions and giving feedback, as described in the chapter on Key Coaching Skills. Informal coaching Informal coaching is a bit of a grey area - because coaching is used implicitly, as part of the everyday conversation between the manager and her team, it may be that neither party would describe the conversation as 'coaching'. Some team members are uncomfortable with the word ‘coaching’ or the idea of being coached - but respond well to a manager who takes the time to listen carefully to them and ask questions that empower them to ﬁnd their own way of meeting a challenge or solving a problem, without being told what to do. Or a manager may be so familiar with the coaching approach (or it may be so similar to her natural communication style) that she may not consciously decide to 'coach' someone but instinctively listen and ask rather than 'tell and sell'. Informal coaching does not take place in scheduled appointments but in everyday workplace conversations. These conversations may be short or long, one-to-one or within a group, task- Wishful Thinking - www.wishfulthinking.co.uk 33 focused
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