Are you a people leader, someone whose role involves a lot of influencing others to work towards objectives? Are you a mentor to someone who is at your level or junior whom you are helping navigate their career?
Anyone in either of these roles will have conversations that help their coachee/mentee identify goals that matter to them, realise what needs to be done to get there, reflect on what and how they have been doing so far and to encourage them to get to their goals consistently. That is the role of a coach. This sounds like something that is relatively easy to do. But in my experience, it is not.
A productive coaching session or conversation requires both the coach and the coachee to trust each other to have an open discussion about the coachee’s goals. Not all workplaces create a good trust based environment to enable coaching. Without good coaching career development can suffer and career progression maybe hindered. If you ever work in an environment like this, it is often better to seek mentors outside the firm. There are multiple services online to find mentors and sometimes even attending meetups and conferences might help you stumble upon a great mentor.
How to have good coaching sessions
The fundamental thing about a coaching session is as I mentioned the trust a coachee places in their coach to help them navigate. This doesn’t mean a coach is a problem solver. A good coach is not someone who tells you what to do to get where you want. A good coach is someone who asks you the right questions to help you understand what you must do to get where you want.
Coaching is only going to be effective if the coachee is really committed to achieving their goal.
Once you have established that trust based relationship, the next step is to set aside some time to meet periodically to discuss progress and to sometimes identify new goals or options. Choosing a time convenient for both the coach and the coachee is the least you can do but give this time slot your 100%, i.e. avoid all other distractions during this time. Good conversations require thoughtful reflection on the coachee’s part. This is extremely hard to achieve if you are constantly being bombarded by notifications on your phone or your smartwatch or other wearables you fancy. So set them aside. I know this sounds like you are going to therapy. A good coaching session is like therapy, helping you identify what the real problem is and what you must do to overcome them.
Now if you are a coach, then you must also be good at asking good open ended questions. In order to get good answers, you need good questions. These are not questions that you prepare and ask randomly but are questions that flow as part of a conversation that help the coachee figure out the problem and solution themselves. There are many ways to run a coaching session. And I found that the GROW model is a really nice framework to have these conversations.
The GROW model
The GROW model is a framework for having coaching conversations. It is an acronym and was initially developed to set Goals and solve problems. This can be used by people to set goals for themselves or to set goals with others like someone they are coaching.
What is it?
GROW stands for:
- Current Reality
- Obstacles / Options
- Will /Way forward
The Goal here is the destination/end point where the coachee wants to get. This has to be so clear that when you are there, you clearly know you are there. This helps the coachee understand that they are ready to move on to the next goal.
Some questions that might help the coach and coachee to understand the goal better are:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What does your goal mean to you?
- When do you intend to meet your goal?
The current reality, explores the situation where the coachee is today. The conversation about this helps the coachee to understand how far away they are from their goal.
Some questions that help the coach and cochee explore this are:
- What help or support do you need to achieve your goal?
- What challenges do you expect to encounter on the way?
- How might you deal with these challenges?
Obstacles and Options
Obstacles are blockers or bumps along the way that are slowing the coachee’s progress to the goal. These are inevitable and will often have to be overcome before one can achieve their goal.
Options are the different solutions to overcome the obstacle. These are actions that the coachee could take to make progress towards their goal.
From exploring the current reality of the coachee, you have already uncovered obstacles. The next step is to explore solutions to overcome these obstacles. This is where you come up with a few different options. And discuss them in detail with your coach.
Some good questions that help explore options:
- What are some ways to overcome this obstacle?
- What are the pros and cons of choosing an option?
- What factors would you consider when picking an option?
Will or Way forward
This is not always called Will but some people do call it Will. Most commonly we see this part of the framework as Way Forward instead. I haven’t really investigated into how this changed or became ambiguous. But I see that both make sense.
The Will helps clarify how committed the coachee is to get to their goal. Ask your coachee to express their commitment to achieving the goal on a scale of 1-10. If their commitment is less than 10, then explore ways to find out what can make it go to 10. This might involve behaviour or lifestyle changes. Create actions to make those changes. A lot of times coachees have goals in their minds that they want to achieve but often fail to work towards. The best way to get that motivation to work towards achieving the goal is to visualize the feeling of having achieved the goal. That helps inspire those positive vibes needed to work towards it. Whether you consider W to be Will or way forward or when it must help you to create actions to achieve the outcome you desire. That’s the important bit.
Can we go through an example?
Let us say your coachee has come to you with a goal. I am skipping the open ended questions here as I have already discussed them earlier. Let us take a look what the answers and actions would be if this conversation happened between a coach and a coachee.
- G - I want to be fit enough to run 5km in 25 minutes in 3 months
- R - I can only run 5km in 35 minutes today
- I have to run at least 3 times a week
- I have to avoid eating unhealthy food, avoid sugar, alcohol and fried food.
- I have to improve the strength of my core
- I have to improve the strength of my legs
- I have to run consistently every week
- I need this so bad - 10 on 10
- Create running schedule
- Run 5k every morning at 05:45 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at a slow pace like 6:00/km
- Do 20-30 minute very low impact body weight workout every Wednesday and Friday at 05:45
- Rest on Sunday - only walk
- Keep at it for 1 month and measure weight and go through progress trend
- Repeat with a new target based on trend
- Create running schedule
Assuming that the coach and the coachee have decided on a regular catchup, the next time they meet, they take a look at the progress and consistency. Continuing this creates an accountability partner for the coachee to keep them consistently working towards their goal.
The important thing about achieving goals are to write them down. Then understand where you are and the gap between you and the goal. Then discussing ways to get there and overcome challenges. Finally committing to it by creating actions and sticking to the plan. Visualising these goals will definitely help remind you and keep you on track. Thus whatever tool you use, make sure you start your day looking at your goal and the actions you have for the day to make progress. Understanding this for yourself and for those you coach is going to help you frame the right questions and have effective conversations about it.
I hope that was helpful.