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Leadership Development 17 October 2014

The silent coach

Coaching has been a passion of mine for many years. It is one of the quickest ways to help someone get on track, understand where they are at and help them to move forward - and is a skill that the most effective leaders and managers need to have in their kit bag!

My first real exposure to coaching, and where my journey started, was back in 1995 when I was lucky enough to spend four days with Sir John Whitmore. This set me on a path to greater self-awareness and ignited my passion for coaching individuals to be the best they can be.

The biggest impact of those four days though, was the coach himself and his method of approach. John’s ability to put aside his ‘ego’ and focus on the coachee as number one priority was key to the coaching experience and the success of the coachee’s learning. This stuck with me as a fundamental guiding principle of being an effective coach. This also means that you can coach someone through a conversation, without them even realising that you are in fact coaching them at all.

The GROW Framework

This approach emphasises the fact that coaching skills are vital across function; for example, coaching upwards, for reports, and peers etc. Effective coaches are really important and help lead people to amazing breakthroughs both professionally and personally. This can happen in a clearly labelled coaching dialogue or ongoing coaching relationship, but it can also apply to thinking partner relationships; ultimately over time, a good coach will help others to start self-coaching and embedding the whole method into their day to day approach.

It is here that we can apply my favourite coaching framework: GROW

G - Goal: what is the issue here? Agree the goal

R - Reality: what is happening/going on right now?

O - Options: what options have we or I got?

W - Way forward: what can we do? Ensure clarity, commitment and support

The GROW methodology is powerful in its simplicity, much the same as the Insights Discovery Model with its simple entry point of four colours.

Coaching should become part of the individual, and the role of the coach is to facilitate the coachee in discovering the issues, the opportunities and possible solutions. The end result of any coaching intervention or casual dialogue should be to enable the individual, allowing them to be in control of the way forward and commitment to action. Once you have assisted in identify the curent issue and way forward, you will have hopefully also given them an insight to how they could ‘self-coach’ when you or another may not be around.

Become a silent partner

My biggest learn from John Whitmore all those years ago was that the best coaches are ‘silent partners’. They leave you thinking you did it all by yourself and send you off feeling invigorated, focused and charged with the energy to make things happen, that perhaps before felt less easy to do.

So the next time you have a situation to deal with, remember these three steps:

  1. Put your ego to one side and focus on the individual – clarify the issue, and the outcome
  2. Ask, don’t tell – seek to understand the situation, issue and challenges
  3. Get their take first on how the issue can be solved and what action can be taken, because as we all know, when you give people the chance to step up, and coach them to think things through in that way, they usually do!

If they don’t realise that you helped them to get to their answer, all the better, because one of the brilliant things that effective leaders and coaches do is instil belief and confidence in their people to do what needs to do done!

If we think about it, we all have experience of great mentors and coaches that have helped us over the years to find the solution and who have supported us. Those are the people we seek out consciously or unconsciously to get their counsel or their view, and always find ourselves in a better place from just talking with them… How many silent coaches do you have around you?

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