I presented at the Training 2018 Conference in Atlanta last week on my favorite topic: coaching. Specifically, Entelechy’s brand of developmental employee coaching. More specifically, on Entelechy’s unique, highly-effective, prescriptive model of coaching.

This is the fifth Training Conference I’ve presented on this same topic and it’s a perennial draw. It’s clear from the huge numbers that attend my presentations that teaching managers to coach — to develop and engage their employees — continues to be one of the most pressing issues in management and leadership development today.

When I asked participants if they thought coaching was important, all said yes. When pressed on WHY then managers didn’t coach — or coach effectively — the responses included:

  1. Time — Our managers don’t have (or say they don’t have) the time it takes to prepare for, conduct, and follow-up to a coaching session.
  2. They think they’re already coaching (part one) — They mistake coaching for what we call Difficult Conversations. “This is the second time Joe’s come in late; I guess I need to have a coaching session with Joe.”
  3. The think they’re already coaching (part two) — They think telling — what we call Feedback — is coaching. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.)
  4. They have too many people – This is associated with the time response above; our managers don’t have time to coach everyone … so they coach no one.

Entelechy differentiates among three different performance management conversations:

Coaching is the conversation that managers use to engage and develop willing employees — employees who want to grow and develop (and while that’s not everyone, it is most of your team). Coaching is used to develop skills that are critical to the employee’s current (or immediate next) position. Coaching helps people perform better at their current jobs. And, who doesn’t want to excel?!

Entelechy’s Coaching Conversation Model is unique in that it prescribes what the coach should say. Unlike most coaching “models” that only talk about stuff like “you need to be empathetic” and “you need to be open,” Entelechy’s coaching model helps managers by giving them the words to say and the questions to ask.

And, most importantly, it’s SIMPLE! In our 25 years of experience, we know that if models aren’t prescriptive and simple, leaders don’t/won’t/can’t use them. That's why simplicity is one of our core leadership development philosophies.

The above represents the core of the Coaching Conversation Model (contact me if you want to see the whole model). As you can see, it is essentially three questions:

  1. "I know you’ve been working on [your meeting management skills]. How’s that been going?"
  2. "What have you done [regarding your meeting management skills] that’s gone well?" After listening, analyzing, and responding appropriately (not shown on the above portion of the model), we ask the same question a second time.
  3. "What might you have done differently [in your meeting that might have improved the meeting]?" And, after listening, analyzing, and responding accordingly, we ask the question a second time.

That’s it, three questions. And, the reason we ask questions is to encourage the employee to self-assess — to confidently and realistically evaluate his/her own performance. If we want independent, course-correcting, continuously-improving employees, we need to help them develop the skill of self-assessment.

Of course, because this is a conversation, we teach the nuance of listening, analyzing, and responding appropriately. And, we teach how to summarize and support to close the conversation.

In my workshop, I conduct a simple and eye-opening exercise in which I ask the entire audience to collectively be my coach. After I conduct a fake coaching session with a volunteer/victim, I turn to the audience and ask them to coach me on my coaching skills as demonstrated in my set-up coaching session. Here are the lessons from that exercise:

We know that coaching is asking those three questions, but when asked to coach me, invariably participants turn immediately to giving me feedback. Sure, feedback is important (actually critical) to performance, but feedback is about what WE — the manager — know. Coaching is finding out what the employee knows. Did the employee (me as the coachee in the workshop scenario) know how she did? Does the employee know what she did well (and should continue doing)? Does the employee know what she might do differently to improve?

When the audience understands that they are to coach me, not give me feedback, they quickly find the Coaching Conversation Model a simple, easy to adopt guide to a very effective conversation.

The Coaching Conversation Model builds the employee’s self-assessment muscle. And, in the process, we as coach find out how much the coachee knows — about his performance, his strengths, and his areas for development.

The Coaching Conversation is quick. Even with pauses for teaching moments, our exercise takes less than seven minutes. Typical coaching conversations take less than five minutes.

The Coaching Conversation — besides being easy to adopt — is easy to adapt. Its simplicity allows each individual to make the model fit his or her unique coaching style (although we do insist on maintaining a few tenets critical to the model’s success).

So, how did my presentation go? Overall, I think it went really well. I think that the model gave participants a terrific introduction to an effective approach to developmental coaching. I also think that the class activity we have at the end not only powerfully demonstrates why we tend to default to feedback rather than coaching, but also got the class totally involved. Regarding things I would do differently, first I would eliminate some of the ancillary slides that took time, but didn’t add enough value; that way I can focus on the critical stuff. I would also use the microphone provided; I thought I could project (I’m loud), but underestimated the size of the group and the room.

See! The above assessment is the product of someone who’s been coached for years. My ability to self-assess is key to my improvement. Wouldn’t it be great if ALL of our employees paused after a call they just had with a customer, a meeting they just conducted, a report they just created, or an interaction they just had with a colleague and self-assessed? (And, by the way, my assessment was proven accurate by the feedback forms following the presentation.)

If you’d like to hear more about Entelechy’s unique Coaching Conversation Model and how you can bring it to your organization, please contact me. Here’s to developing strong coaches and self-aware employees!

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