What makes coaching successful?

Success is often attributed to mutual chemistry, technique, and readiness to learn. I agree that those are important ingredients in the process. But in reality, they are steps to achieving results. And that’s what we’re looking for, right?

How do we reach the movement and momentum we want?

coaching was discussing performance management on an HR.COM webinar. Managers are often concerned about how to use performance data to really help employees.

That thought popped into mind when, a little while ago, I was in the midst of a coaching session and realized that we were on a roll. So I started paying attention to what was happening–like watching a movie where you are one of the actors. When I looked at the plot, it revealed four components that I think are essential for a coaching session to be successful.

1. Clarity

Ultimately, nothing will happen until you gain laser-like clarity on the issue or goal. The client in this case needed to put a lot of information out there before I could start to ask the right questions after hearing overlapping themes. Finally, he uttered a single phrase that summed up his goal. What was the take away?:

Total clarity before continuing.

2. Confirmation

When I repeated the phrase and asked him if that’s where he wanted to go he smiled and his energy level went up noticeably. As a coach or client, ask the question: Is the excitement increasing because you’ve hit upon the real thing or an exciting thing?

Confirm the real deal or go back to step 1.

3. Communicate it

When we keep a goal or an issue to ourselves, there’s no accountability for action. Once we state our desires or intentions to other people, we have a much greater chance of success. It’s human nature. Tell someone else that you are planning on doing something and the likelihood of you doing it increases. Ask “Who else will you tell about this?” “Who else needs to be involved to help you accomplish this?”

Communicate to motivate.

4. Commitment

Create an immediate action–something that will happen today. Too often we become satisfied with the “Aha” and ignore the “Ah, when?” I ask for an action that can be taken before the end of the day. It creates momentum, makes something happen (we both get paid to make something happen), and shows genuine commitment. It also provides a specific action that allows for follow up. “What was the outcome of your phone call to the customer?” “How did your team react to your initial meeting about the new software integration?

If the coach hears about how things went, then it opens the door to identify next steps. If the action didn’t happen, it’s a signal for both to examine what is happening and to get quickly on track. (That could ultimately lead to a return to Clarity). Without a commitment and follow-up, it’s easy to feel good about the session and still have nothing happen. (I hate when nothing happens!)

Commit to an action that will happen today.

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