Being a Coaching Boss Rather Than a Telling Boss

CoachHelpTelling people what to do is the right thing to do, some of the time. But on many other occasions it’s better to help them think it through themselves – it takes a few minutes longer, but they learn better and they’re more committed to the actions. In other words, bosses need to be good coaches.

The most used coaching framework is GROW, which is an acronym standing for Goal – Current Reality – Options – Wrap Up. The model is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring a coaching or mentoring discussion.

A useful metaphor for the GROW model is the plan you might make for an important journey. First, you start with a map: With this, you help your team member decide where they are going (their Goal) and establish where they currently are (their Current Reality). Then you explore various ways (the Options) of making the journey. In the final step (the Wrap Up) you ensure your team member is committed to making the journey and is prepared for the conditions and obstacles they may meet on their way.

Here’s how it works in a bit more detail:

  1. Establish the Goal:

Many of us know there’s something not right about a situation. But we’re often not clear enough about what we want to do about it. So, start by helping them to be clear about what they are trying to achieve. Ideally, the goal should be specific, measurable and realistic.

In doing this, it is useful to ask questions such as:

  • “How will you know that you have achieved that goal?”
  • “How will you know the issue is resolved?”
  1. Examine Current Reality:

Next, ask your team member to describe their Current Reality. This is a very important step: Too often, people try to solve a problem without fully considering their starting point, and often they are missing some of the information they need to solve the problem effectively.

As the team member tells you about his or her Current Reality, the solution may start to emerge.

Useful questions at this stage include:

  • “What is happening now?”
  • “What… who… when… how often?”
  • “What is the effect or result of that?”
  1. Explore the Options (or Consider the Obstacles):

Once you and your team member have explored the Current Reality, a coaching boss would help them explore what is possible – meaning, all the many possible options they have for solving the problem.

By all means, offer your own suggestions. But let your team member offer his or her thoughts first, and let them do most of the talking.

Typical questions used to establish the options are:

  • “What else could you do?”
  • “What if this or that constraint were removed?”
  • “What are the benefits and downsides of each option?”
  • “What factors will you use to weigh up the options?”
  1. Wrap Up (or Establish the Will):

By examining Current Reality and exploring the Options, your team member will now have a good idea of how he or she can achieve their Goal. That’s great – but in itself, this may not be enough! So your final step as coach is to get your  team member to commit to specific action. In so doing, you will help them establish their level of motivation.

Useful questions:

  • “So what will you do now, and when?
  • “What could stop you moving forward?”
  • “And how will you overcome it?”
  • “Will this address your goal?”
  • “How likely is this option to succeed?”
  • “What else will you do?”

I said earlier that it can take longer to coach rather than tell. But it can work amazingly well in less than two minutes – say, at the coffee machine – on relatively straightforward matters:

Coach: What do you want to achieve?

Coach: What are the key elements to focus on?

Coach: What do you see as the options for moving forward?

Coach: So what are you going to do now?

Here is a list of other potential questions using GROW:

What do you want to achieve?
What is important to you right now?
What would you like to get from this discussion?
What areas do you want to work on?
Describe your perfect result?
What do you want to achieve as a result of this session?
What will make you feel this time has been well spent?

Where are you now in relation to your goal?
On a scale of 1 -10 where are you?
What has contributed to your success so far?
What skills/knowledge/attributes do you have?
What progress have you made so far?
What is working well right now?
What is required of you?

What are your options?
How have you tacked this/ a similar situation before?
What could you do differently?
Who do you know who has encountered a similar situation?
Give me 5 options
If anything was possible what would you do?
What would somebody you know who is good at this do?
What else?

Wrap up
Which options work best for you?
What one small step are you going to take now?
What actions will you take?
When are you going to start?
Who will help you?
How will you know you have been successful
How will you ensure that you do it?
On a scale of 1 -10 how committed /motivated are you to doing it? What would make you even more committed?

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