A Coaching Conversation Checklist for Smart Managers
In spite of wide-spread coach training, many managers aren’t using coaching skills to grow and develop their people. Instead, they see themselves as problem solvers, cutting short conversations with employees by providing solutions, advice, and answers.
Yet managers who coach find that their employees are more committed, willing to put forth greater effort, and less likely to leave.
“Clearly, the benefits of building a coaching culture and increasing the effectiveness of coaching are great. There are both tangible benefits (increased employee engagement and productivity) and intangible benefits (improved culture and finding meaning and purpose in work).” ~ John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, McGraw-Hill, 2010
The authors suggest using the FUEL model outlined in their book to help create a coaching checklist:
- F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process, and desired outcome.
- U = Understand the Current State from the coachee’s point of view, and expand his awareness of the situation.
- E = Explore the Desired State. Help the coachee to articulate a vision of success in this scenario.
- L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify specific, time-bound action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results with milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Step 1: Frame the Coaching Conversation
Conversations with employees often turn into project task updates instead of furthering growth and development. A checklist helps set up a coaching dialogue. According to Zenger and Stinnett The Extraordinary Coach, there are three steps that work well for initiating a developmental dialogue.
- Identify the behavior or issue to discuss.
- Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation.
- Agree on the process for the conversation.
This sounds almost too simple to bother with, but without it employees aren’t clear about what the issues are and how they can use them to grow and develop.
Step 2: Understanding Leads to Insights
The next step in a coaching conversation is to address the “meat” of the issue. This part can be tricky because of our natural tendency to assume we understand what the issues are. We fill in the blanks and automatically judge—usually prematurely.
Instead, a manager needs to listen well and encourage the coachee to talk. Explore what the real challenge is for her.
- Ask open-ended, non-leading questions
- Act as a mirror, observe, and repeat what you hear and see
- Encourage the coachee to explore what the real issue or challenge is
- Discuss consequences in the event things don’t change
- Assume anything
- Judge, criticize, or categorize
- Ask for too many details or focus on other people
- Offer your perspective or advice right away
- Find an answer for the person
People won’t change until they experience a need to, and if a manager is too helpful, the coachee won’t feel enough motivation.
Step 3: Explore Desired Outcomes
Typically, managers are excellent problem-fixers and advice-givers. They want to jump in at Step 3 and often skip over Steps 1 and 2.
But that is a big trap. Instead of pouncing on the first viable solution, it’s worthwhile to explore alternatives by helping people think things through. Let the coachee do most of the talking to find out what matters most to her. By suggesting at least three alternatives, she will end up with a more effective solution. As the manager, you can negotiate and influence what the measures of success must include.
Step 4: Lay Out a Success Plan
This is the home stretch in a coaching conversation and should not be rushed or skimmed over. Your role now is that of a guide. Together you will develop and agree on an action plan with timelines, enlist support from others, and set milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Why Bother with Coaching Conversations?
Without going into all the statistical ROI studies, let’s look at the benefits of coaching as a managerial style.
- Coaching gives new meaning to work. When people feel that they are engaged in a useful cause and not merely performing menial tasks, they will go beyond minimal requirements.
- Coaching leads to more engaged and committed employees.
- Coaching increases productivity.
- Coaching refocuses people on the most important objectives.
- Coaching leads to a stronger culture, which has a tremendous impact on performance and productivity.
- Coaching strengthens the relationship between supervisor and employee.
- Coaching promotes heightened self-esteem and confidence among employees.
- Coaching encourages resilience and creative problem-solving ability.
- Coaching helps people take responsibility and ownership of both problems and solutions.