Do you feel you need to have all the answers in order to be of value to others? Or have you discovered that you can make a big difference by asking great questions that allow others to discover the answers that are most meaningful to them?
“Coaching is increasingly being used to provide personal and professional development in our workplaces,” explained Professor Christian van Nieuwerburgh from the University of East London when we interviewed him recently. “This is because coaching facilitates people’s self-directed learning through questioning, active listening, and appropriate challenges in a supportive and encouraging climate. Studies have found that this approach helps to boost wellbeing, enhance resilience, increase hope, improve performance, and build self-confidence.”
Of course, it’s one thing to want to have more coaching conversations, but it’s another to make it happen as part of your interactions. In fact, studies have found 24% of leaders over-estimate their ability to have coaching conversations.
Christian explained that coaching is both a science and an art. The science is underpinned by research in coaching psychology and is reflected in the teachable skills and conversational frameworks. Whereas the art of coaching is a way of being that involves interacting in a deeply human and respectful way.
With this in mind, when it comes to improving your coaching approach Christian recommended:
- Tuning in and noticing – Bring into awareness any information, data, or behaviors that are unfolding during your conversation. Tune your radar, as much as possible, to what is being said (or perhaps not being said) and your own or others’ body language. Notice your own thoughts, feelings, and the mindset that you’re bringing to the interaction. Putting a “noticing lens” on in your coaching conversations can help distract your mind from the typically-Western approach of going in with a problem-solving attitude.
- Setting an intention – Ask yourself: “How do I want to be?” Consider how you want to be so that others around you can feel it. This can encompass a passion for wanting to empower and motivate the wellbeing and development of others, a generosity of spirit, openness, curiosity, and kindness, all of which can show up in different ways for different people. Your way of coaching needs to be authentic and genuine for you, matching your own unique personality, values, principles, and character strengths.
- Listening without an agenda – Most of the time, you might listen to others because you’re trying to understand or solve something. However, coaching involves a unique and slightly different purpose and way of listening. In coaching, the purpose of listening is to create a safe space by making the person feel valued. “Listening to value” means you’re listening without an agenda. You can practice this skill by grabbing a coffee or taking a short walk with a colleague and asking them to: “Tell me a little bit about what’s going on for you at the moment.” Then listen with no attachment to the answer.
What can you do to lead better coaching conversations?