How It Works
Although every coaching engagement is customized to each individual or group, there are three phases common throughout all of my client-coach relationships: (I) Assessment and Conception of Key Issues, (II) Development/Performance Planning, (III) On-going Practice, Insight, and Mastery. These phases are explained below in more detail:
Assessment and Conception of Key Issues
First, it is essential to develop a solid connection with my clients so we have a comfortable rapport, based upon trust and an understanding of the areas in which my clients would like to grow. To begin the relationship, I ask each client to complete a basic, new-client questionnaire that we subsequently review and discuss. The purpose of the questionnaire is to help establish expectations in our work together, get to know a little about their professional and personal lives, and provide some biographical history. After one or two sessions of getting to know one another, we decide if gathering more data is necessary. There are two ways to achieve this next step of information gathering. The first is to administer one or more assessments to learn about client preferences (for example, how and why they gravitate toward a preferred behavior or habit) and areas in which clients would benefit by learning some new skills. To probe even further, and if it is possible for the client, I may do what is called 360-degree interviewing. This is asking questions and gathering data from co-workers and/or supervisors. The information from these interviews is then shared with the client, in a confidential manner, not naming specific individuals who provided feedback. Whether or not all of these techniques are utilized is up to the client, and depends upon how many layers of information they feel will be helpful. Of course, if an organization is paying for an employee, the depth of information gathered is ultimately up to the employer.
Development & Performance Planning
The next step is helping the client co-create their plan based upon the information gathered from the first phase. The plan for development or performance will consist of specific learning goals. Development activities and action plans for how the client will achieve these goals is also established. Activities might include role playing/dialoguing challenging situations, discovering new ways of preparing for meetings, shadowing colleagues, readings, and more. Additionally, each client will be expected to journal in an on-line environment on a frequent basis with the coach and/or with others, if it is a group that is being coached. Journaling helps identify patterns, reinforce targeted behaviors and most importantly helps to maintain the momentum of learning between coaching sessions.
Ongoing Practice, Insight, and Mastery
The Final phase turns to real-time learning and insight. This is where the client follows through on specific strategies and action plans established during the development/planning phase. Coaching sessions will be devoted to reviewing real-time situations and events, identifying successes and missed opportunities, and continuing to focus on issues of style, intent, and impact.
Additionally, my method of coaching relies upon using a combination of inquiry and personal discovery; inquiry is the process of asking powerful questions that require reflection and facilitate personal discovery. Homework inquiries are used as assignments, in between coaching sessions, to deepen the process of personal discovery and learning.
My approach is also values-based to each client because it ensures that the coaching agenda is congruent with what is most important to the client; this also helps ensure internal motivation where the client is integral in developing the agenda and motivated to execute specific actions.
Finally, my coaching style is action-oriented because most sessions focus on identifying and committing to specific actions that will move the client forward to his or her most important goals.
Unless other arrangements are made, most sessions are conducted over the phone. This arrangement is convenient for both client and coach, many clients feel more “open” to discuss challenging issues, and I have found that many clients experience fewer interruptions and are less likely to reschedule or miss an appointment when sessions are held over the phone. I also conduct in-person and Skype sessions.
Unless you are inquiring about a workshop or customized training, coaching engagements last a minimum of 3 months. A 6-12 month timeframe is typical for most engagements, however. Learning new skills and behaviors takes practice and some time! Coaching is an investment in your future. And investments pay dividends. And as Peter Drucker mentions in The Effective Executive, anyone whose decision-making contributions substantially impact an organization are ideal candidates for coaching, whether they are in a managerial or leadership role, or a combination of both roles.