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Coaching; How to Help People Take Commitment for their Development

Coaching; 

How to Help People Take Commitment for their Development

Copyright © 2006 The National Learning Institute
This article may be freely published electronically.  It may be reprinted for individual use in hard copy but may not be reprinted in hard copy for commercial purposes.
Used with permission of the author:
Author: Bob Selden
Managing Director
The National Learning Institute   www.nationallearning.com.au 
19 November 2007


I recently conducted a coaching session on “How to be an effective coach” for a group of very senior financial service advisors responsible for the management and leadership of project teams that have clients of the mega rich variety.  When I asked them what they thought an ideal coach should be, I expected to get terms that describe what I would call a traditional view of a coach – i.e. someone who advises and shows others how to improve in a particular field.  The image of the traditional coach is that of a sports coach who is intent on imparting his or her knowledge to help athletes and teams improve their performance.  Now, I know that there is a wide variety of types and styles of coaches (see “Are you positive or negative?”).  However, my belief is that the commonly accepted view of a coach is more of the traditional view such as:

  • Someone in charge of training an athlete or a sports team
  • A person who gives private instruction (as in singing or acting)

To my amazement, my group of senior financial advisors came up with quite a different list from what I expected, i.e. they suggested an ideal coach is someone who:

  • Does not give advice, rather helps the person find out what they should do
  • Is a good listener
  • Has a calming affect on the person being coached (the “coachee”)
  • “Lives” with the coachee’s issues, i.e. suspends judgment and really gets involved
  • Displays a positive attitude toward the coachee
  • Is always positive about finding a solution or helping the person develop
  • Is proud of the coachee’s achievements
  • Rarely shows emotions such as anger and annoyance
  • Helps the coachee talk things through, particularly when the coachee is depressed
  • Has a caring attitude toward the coachee
  • Provides the coachee with a “comfort zone” where the person is free to say what he/she thinks and feels

Could I come up with a better list?  Probably not.  They then proceeded to develop a mission for a coach which they suggested should be:

“Asks questions to help the person find answers”

By this stage as the facilitator of the session, I was feeling quite redundant, but tremendously elated about the views this group had on what can sometimes be seen as a mundane chore of coaching.  Their enlightened view of a coach made it very easy for me to introduce them to the GROW model of coaching (first developed by John Whitmore).

The GROW model, embodies all the attributes that my financial advisors used to describe a coach.  The aim of the model is to help the coachee arrive at some resolution to their issue, problem, knowledge or skill deficit, not give them advice or direction on what they should do.  GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, Wrap-up (or Will).  It is a sequential model, ideally working from Goal through to Wrap-up.  However in practice, it is often found that coach and coachee will vacillate between the first three stages as they work through the issue.

Stage 1: Goal. 
The coach and coachee identify and agree on clear and achievable goals for the discussion. This goal is not the longer-term objective that the coachee might have regarding his or her issue.  Rather it is the definition of what can be achieved within the time set for this discussion session. For example, the coach might ask “What would you like to achieve from this session?” or “What would you like to walk away with from our discussion today?”

Stage 2: Reality. 
The aim of this stage is for the coach to help the coachee clearly define the current situation as seen by both coachee and others.  If the coach has knowledge of the situation, he / she may add their perceptions to assist the coachee to build as accurate a picture of reality as possible. For example the coach might ask “What’s happening now?” or “What’s working/what’s not working for you at the moment?” or “Who else has seen this or given you feedback?”

Stage 3: Options. 
In the options stage, the coach’s intention is to draw out all the possible alternatives or options the coachee might have (or be able to acquire) to deal successfully with the situation.  This is done without judgment or evaluation by the coach. As was once said to me “One should develop an opinion, not have an opinion”.  The coach (through effective questioning) helps the coachee narrow the options to arrive at the best possible alternatives by asking “What could you do to change the situation?” or “What alternatives are there to that approach?”.

Stage 4: Wrap-up. 
In this stage the coach’s intention is to gain commitment (or will) to take action. The coach and coachee select the most appropriate options, commit to action, define the action plan, the next steps and a timeframe for their objectives, then identify how to overcome any possible obstacles. For example “What are the next steps for you?” and “When will this happen?” and “What support do you need?”

Coaching of this type, can be a fantastic tool for helping someone develop.  However, to be successful:

  • The coach must have a real and genuine interest in helping the coachee
  • The coach must believe that the coachee can improve
  • The coachee must be willing to be “coached”

The challenge as a coach in applying a technique such as the GROW model, is to remain non-directional - merely asking questions, summarising and listening and only giving advice when it is asked for and then only during the Options and Wrap-up stages.  For many of us this is quite a major challenge as our normal directive style is the polar opposite.  The payoff in mastering this challenge is to see the coachee take real ownership for their development knowing that you were the catalyst.


Bob Selden writes a lot of articles about motivating people. It is his hope that managers will start to debate the issue a lot more. Bob would like to think there are some enlightened managers out there who understand what motivates people. Please let Bob know what you think via www.nationallearning.com.au

Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Managing Director

BA LLB

C: +27 82 416 7712

T: +27 12 669 3289

F: +27 86 689 7862

Website: www.workinfo.com
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