Posts Taged coaching

Get a Coach: The First Key to Starting Your Coaching Culture

First steps to a coaching cultureFor a decade or more, coaching has almost been seen as a perk of the executive position in large corporations.  In the past few years, interesting is growing in developing coaching as a method of interaction and development at virtually all company levels in all sizes of companies.  More and more, businesses are working to build coaching into the DNA of their culture.  The initial steps don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, but you do have to make a commitment.  While most philosophers will tell you that the first step is the most important one, the step you choose need to be the right one.  Here is one informed suggestion.

Get a Coach.  When I say, “get a coach,” I mean get a credentialed coach or one who received their coach training through an accredited program.  You want someone who has the knowledge to interact well with you in a coaching encounter.  You want a coach who has been trained by professionals.   At a recent leadership training program, Betty (the name is to protect the innocent) approached me to have a conversation around coaching.  She said, “I tried coaching once, and it didn’t
work.”  As we continued the discussion, it became very apparent to both of us what went wrong.  Betty’s friend persuaded her to start coaching with a friend of a friend who was just beginning their coaching business.  This coach had no professional training other than “he had been to several weekend retreats where they taught coaching.”  Furthermore, he started his coaching career because a lot of “people at his old job told him that he would be good at it.”  While a step of this kind can be successful, it is more often the wrong one.

As with any buying decision, don’t take it lightly.

  • Google a phrase like “find a coach” or “hire a coach.”  Then research it like you would buying a car.
  • Go to a website of a professional organization like the International Coach Federation.  Most of them will let you search for coaches with credentials.
  • Talk to the coach before you hire.  Go with your gut.  How does this coach make you feel?

Start your coaching culture by working with a coach.  You’ll learn from the inside of the experience how it works; what you feel, think and do.  By experiencing coaching, you know how to grow the culture that fits your company.

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Unconscious Communication as a Basis for Coaching

Have you ever watched a leader walk into a room and see the interpersonal dynamics change around them?  The flow of the chatter changes.  The topics change.  And people start to look to the leader for approval.  The conversation may even shift to the point that the leader becomes responsible for determining turn taking and who gets to talk next.  The charismatic behaviors of the leader subtly influence their surroundings.  It’s not something the leader tries to do; it just happens.  There is an unconscious shift in the communication patterns.

Alex Pentland from MIT refers to these patterns as honest signals in his book, Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World. They are the nonverbal cues that are so deeply embedded that we have extreme difficulty faking them.  He and his associates spent years studying these signals and developed the technology to measure them.  As coaches, an awareness of our client’s unconscious communication can be fruitful coaching territority.

First, as coaches, we can pay more attention to honest signals.  We can’t really cheat with our nonverbal signals.  In fact, Pentland conducted a number of experiments where people tried to change and they were generally failures.  Think of it this way.  You are walking with a friend and having a very interesting conversation.  Suddenly, your friend starts skipping while talking.  It looks like fun to you so you try skipping and talking, too.  Doesn’t work.  You are thinking so hard about skipping that that you can’t talk straight.  As coaches, we have the opportunity to become conscious of the honest signals from our clients.  Start noticing when there is an extra-long pause or maybe a sigh just before they say, “It’s been an adventurous week.”

Second, we can support our clients as they improve their self-monitoring.  Much of my coaching with executives centers on their awareness of how they appear to others.  I ask them to think about the honest signals that they are providing to others.  As that awareness grows, the clients also grow in their ability to adapt their activities.

Third, we can support our clients as they learn new honest signals.  Have you ever noticed how sales people always are nodding?  It’s an honest signal.  And it’s learned.  Alex Pentland says that we can learn new honest signals by role playing.  In one sense, we do that a lot as coaches.  We ask our clients to try on new behaviors and do different things.  I use the DiSC profile with most of my clients.  Imagine the conversation where I am coaching a “D” style who likes to address issues quickly, directly, and decisively and I ask him how he might approach the situation as an “S” who wants everyone comfortable with their surroundings and changing policies.  Once we understand the role, we can honestly play it.

If you have an opportunity to read Pentland’s book, I recommend it.  Most treatments of nonverbal communication treat it as something that can be easily dissected and manipulated.  David Pentland recognizes the subtleties of our unconscious behaviors and the resultant honesty in our communication.  As coaches, we also have an opportunity to work on our honest signals.

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Group Coaches Are Group Facilitators

At Ultimate Coach University, we teach some courses in group coaching.  Most beginning coaches are concerned about doing too much telling, training or directing.  The perspective we try to develop is one in which group facilitation is a key part of group coaching.  Here’s why:

Coaches are always facilitators.   A facilitator is defined as “one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.”  That’s what coaches do.  Whether it’s one-to-one or with a group, coaches create an environment within which learning, self-discovery, curious invention and the like occurs.

The focus is the individual in the group setting.  Groups are not teams. Teams have a goal that requires a specialized participation from everyone.  Groups do not. Groups exist because the group members see an individual benefit from being there.  As a coach facilitator, the goal is to maximize the benefits for all of the individuals in the group.  The only goal of the group is to maximize the individual’s achievements.

Group dynamics are more complex. The coach always has part of themselves in the coaching and part of themselves monitoring the coaching.  The coach is responsible for time management, focus, productivity and accountability.  Those occur when the coach is monitoring (facilitating) the interactions.  In one sense, the coach is both mental in and mentally out of the coaching space.  When group coaching, the mentally out part is more complex.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • Instead of overall time, the coach has to manage the portion of time available for each person to talk.
  • When each person talks, it changes the communication expectations for everyone else.  Imagine a group of sales leaders and one says, “This month sucks. My top people have taken the month off, nobody wants to promote, and our ability to attract new people is terrible.”  The group can easily spiral down from there.  Somebody who is having a good month may hesitate to talk because they don’t want make other participants feel bad.

In short, the coach has to manage the group in order to produce an environment that will maximize things for each individual.  The coach may have to interrupt clients, add topics to the agenda, or cut some topics short for the purpose of getting the most for everyone.

Peer coaching opportunities arise.  I’ve been working with groups for nearly five years. In that time, one of the benefits for everyone is what they get from the other participants.  They get a diversity of opinions, questions from the group, and suggestions to move things forward.  In addition, the group members get to hear others being coached in real-time and strong role modeling in communication skills.

Ginger Cockerham defines group coaching in her book, Group Coaching, as “a facilitated group process led by a skilled professional coach and created with the intention of maximizing the combined energy, experience, and wisdom of individuals who choose to join in order to achieve organizational objectives or individual goals.” In other words, coaching and facilitation are conjoined.  When we start with the assumption that the two go together, the resulting coaching is stronger.

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