Feedback as an opportunity for coaching

Prepare to step into a coaching role and switch from just telling to asking There is always likely to be some resistance to top-down solutions no matter how well-intentioned – and this is definitively one of the limitations of the STAR model. The approach of the STAR is essentially one of telling and this may have a negative impact on the engagement and potential creativity of the person receiving the feedback. Applying the model simply as written also leaves no space for the person being given the feedback to come up with their own suggestions. The result is to close the door to the exploration and integration of any more creative options that, after discussion and consideration, might lead to an even better outcome. We encourage you to make the switch from the traditional way of giving feedback to a process that permits you to step into a coaching role, using questions to nudge the person to whom you are giving feedback towards their own solutions and multiple options for moving forward. This means retaining the first phase of the traditional STAR model for feedback and then diverging to allow active participation in the process from both people. Here is an outline of the kind of conversation this would entail: STATE THE FACTS: objectively and non–judgementally, describe the Situation, the Task, the Action and the Result (impact). DEFINE A (NEW) MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME: discuss and agree any essential revisions to the previously achieved Result. Sample coaching questions: “What would have been / be a better outcome?” “What is it that you / we would like to achieve now?”  ...

The coaching mindset

Acquiring the right mindset for using leadership coaching skills as a leader is a conscious decision and a choice that must be actively made. It presupposes that you stand firmly behind the belief that a coaching approach adds value, that the other person has something valuable to contribute and that it is worth exploring ideas and options. It requires going beyond the obvious and believing there must be more. Curiosity for other people’s ideas and thinking is essential and this leads you to really listen to what they have to say. Additionally, you accept that your own ideas are not always the most important ones and you are willing to have your ideas evaluated on an equal footing along with any other options that have been generated. By choosing to set aside the need to always tell and instead facilitating and soliciting the input and contribution of others, there are huge benefits to be gained. Benefits for you as a leader Your impact on those around you gradually changes and people start reacting more positively to you. In creating the space for other people to express their thoughts and ideas and value their contribution, you are seen as a catalyst for change and bigger thinking. The potential for success for you and the team is greater as everyone is involved is making a more significant contribution towards achieving results. Benefits for the people you coach The impact on personal growth and development for those you coach is destined to be high. Being encouraged to make a contribution fosters the ability to think and leads to a greater sense of...

Mindful listening

Without mindful listening it is simply not possible to extract what is important from what is said and to make the kind of connections that are needed for you to be effective as a leader who coaches.  There is little point in perfecting your questioning skills question if you are not going to listen well – a question stops being powerful the moment you don’t pay attention to the answer. Hearing is a physiological process. It is largely passive and happens automatically although – thankfully – you can sometimes choose to filter out those things you don’t want to hear and ignore them. Listening, on the other hand, comes about as a result of a choice to pay attention, and listening mindfully means that listening has become an integral part of who you are, how you do things, and how you communicate and interact. Listening mindfully implies that you activate your observational skills to the maximum and all of your senses, not just hearing, are receptive to what is going on around you. According to Madelyn Burley–Allen in her book Listening – the Forgotten Skill, there are three levels of listening: Level 3 is the type of listening where we pay the least attention to what the other person is saying as we are focussed on ourselves and our own interests. When this happens, we often follow the discussion only marginally, tuning out what the other person says and not really listening. Typically, we are looking for opportunities to jump in and express our own opinions. In level 2, we hear the words but our understanding of them is...

Ask great questions

As a leader, it may be easy to impress with your knowledge but finding the right words at the right time to ask a great coaching question that focuses the attention of the listener where it most needs to be is a tough call. Why is this? Often, neither the person who is asking the question, nor the person who is being asked, realises consciously that the question prompts the listener in a certain direction and will generally predetermine the answer. In other words, you do really get what you ask for. As a leader who uses coaching questions, your choice of question will determine the direction of the coaching conversation. A great question not only makes the other person think and resonates with them but it also achieves your clear intent and purpose and moves the conversation in a good direction. This means asking yourself, “What do I hope to achieve with this question?” BEFORE you ask it. Being clear about what you want to achieve not only determines the words that you use and the type of question you choose but equally, determines the non–verbal communication that accompanies the question you are asking. Your non–verbal communication, by which we mean your body–language including gestures, facial expression as well as your tone of voice and vocal emphasis, can change the way in which a question is both asked and interpreted.  A simple question like “What do you think?” has different shades of meaning according to how the words are emphasised. For example, “What do you think?” (emphasis on you) is different to “What do you think?”(emphasis on the...

Generate multiple options with questions

When you want to coach for innovation, your challenge is to resist the natural tendency to voice an immediate solution or to give advice. Instead, start an exploration process. Move from telling to asking questions that encourage the other person to refocus their attention and tap into their own potential to generate options and find new, unique solutions. The three main focus areas for your questions are: 1. Information Gathering: explore the background of the problem or issue. 2. Causes: consider what led to the problem or issue in the first place. 3. Goal & Fixes: check the goal and generate options to solve the problem or issue. Find out more about how to generate multiple options with Coaching for Innovation (2014, Palgrave Macmillan) by Maureen Steele and Cristina...

Powerful questions for bigger thinking

Questions act as the critical trigger to bigger thinking. For example, in the workplace, if you try to do something differently, you may be met with the response, ‘That’s not how we do things here.’ The big thinker would wonder why not and would not hesitate to ask ‘What stops you?’ This is a powerful question. Cristina Bianchi / Maureen Steele writing in Coaching for Innovation Questions lie at the heart of coaching and when you want to coach for innovation, you need to be asking powerful questions to stimulate connections that have not been made before. It is then much more likely that the outcome is change and a different way of doing things, whether this change is gradual and progressive or radical and revolutionary. Finding the right words at the right time to ask the perfect question that focuses the attention of the listener where it most needs to be is a tough call. This is often because neither the person who is asking the question, nor the person who is being asked, realises consciously that the question prompts the listener in a certain direction and will generally predetermine the answer. In other words, you do really get what you ask for. Characteristics of powerful questions Powerful questions are well formulated – the choice of words is critical. Incorporate into your question the key words used by the other person to demonstrate that you have listened well and that you value what has just been said. Use short and simple sentences that provide clarity about what you are asking. Have one clear ask rather than asking multiple...