3 Useful Tools for Coaching
By Peter Pearson - 22nd Jul 2016
Sometimes, when you coach someone, there is a clear agenda from the start - the person being coached may have a particular issue or problem to deal with. For the coach, this is a comparatively straightforward situation to deal with (though of course the issue itself can be very complex or ill-defined!)
But often, the brief is much less clear cut.
The coachee (or their boss) may want to ‘develop their leadership’ or ‘become more effective’. I was once asked to coach some ‘middle leaders’ (Heads or Deputy Heads of Department) in a secondary school in London. The only brief I was given was to ‘help them become better middle leaders’.
This proved tricky as there wasn’t very much to work with - the individuals did not know how they were doing or what was expected of them! And as three of them gained clarity about their situation they realised that they wanted to be somewhere else!
For the past twelve years much of my professional life has been about creating resources to help in such situations - though in my opinion, the first one that I’m about to tell you about should really be in place already.
1. The Performance Review
In any professional situation there are a number of things that aren’t up for negotiation.
Every organisation is right to have clear expectations, policies and standards that all its employees need to sign up to. This provides the context in which coaching can take place.
Equally, all employees have the entitlement to receive clear feedback as to how they are performing against these non-negotiable expectations. Ideally this will provide the individual with feedback as to their strengths and areas to develop - a good starting point for coaching.
However, the reality is often that the senior colleague carrying out the appraisal has a limited view of how the participant is doing. They are likely to be very busy doing their own jobs, with limited time to see the participant in action.
This is where a 360° diagnostic becomes invaluable.
2. A 360° diagnostic
A 360° Diagnostic provides a context for the participant themselves to reflect on how they are doing against a series of questions about their leadership skills. It then gathers perspectives from all different points of view - senior managers, same-status colleagues and junior team members (it comes from a holistic perspective - all “360 degrees of the compass”).
There are many benefits
First it highlights strengths
Culturally not many of us are good at recognising what we do well, so it provides a confidence boost to have our strengths acknowledged by the people we work with. This is particularly valuable in professions such as teaching where it is all too easy to be aware of what is not going so well.
Next it provides some objectivity
Sometimes we are most proud of doing something that didn’t come naturally to us, and we can overlook the things we do well because they seem ‘easy’ or natural. So it is very valuable to compare our point of view with that of the people we work with. We gain a richer, more detailed, perspective.
Finally it helps identify areas for development
These could be ‘blindspots’, weaknesses or areas where there has been no opportunity to develop.
All these bring a wealth of material into the coaching relationship. A coach can help the client make sense of their 360° diagnostic report. This informs all three stages of the coaching process: understanding the current situation, identifying the desired state or solution and working out how to get there.
The 360° diagnostic therefore saves time and helps provide a sense of direction. Priceless!
At 20Q we created a range of 360°s to be easy to use and affordable. We don’t think there is anything available that is more user-friendly or better value, but if you think we are wrong about that please let us know!
3. A Personality Profile Tool
Many of the issues that present themselves in coaching are to do with other people. We may love our colleagues dearly but they still provide a big source of misunderstanding, conflict, frustration and confusion. And sooner or later we learn that other people are surprisingly difficult to change!
The experienced coach has many ways to help their coachees deal with ‘people issues’ better.
Maybe the attention needs to shift from what they can’t do anything about - the other person’s behaviour or personality - to something they can do something about - their own thoughts and behaviours. ‘My boss is domineering and doesn’t listen to me’ can change to ‘I am learning to be more assertive and communicate my needs more clearly’.
The more the coachee understands about their own personality (self awareness) and those of their colleagues, the better able they are to adapt their behaviour accordingly. This is where a personality profile tool is invaluable.
Myers Briggs is probably the best known.
Based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung, it scores people on 4 ‘polarities’ to give a possible 16 profiles. In my experience it can help provide a lot of insight though not everyone finds it very ‘user-friendly’ - it seems to suit some people more than others.
For the few people who are serious about understanding themselves in depth I recommend the Enneagram.
You need to allow some time and be prepared to face your compulsions - not always a comfortable experience. I have helped run week long retreats based on the Enneagram and the experience is powerful and valuable for all concerned. But I wouldn’t try to force it on anyone who did not feel ready.
20Q Personality Profiles
The 20Q Personality Profile tool has arisen out of the educational leadership world: it has been developed from various courses and modules which are no longer available.
In my experience it is easy to relate to while the insights it provides keep on coming. It is easy to apply it to team situations and invaluable for understanding the source of many interpersonal misunderstandings.
Coaching always involves a significant investment of time and resource.
Using all 3 of these tools will ensure that coaching provides as much value as possible.
The Performance Review will help identify what is expected of the coachee and how well they are performing against those criteria.
A 360 Diagnostic will provide feedback from all points of the compass - managers, team members and reports.
A Personality Profile will help a participant understand themselves better - and understand the people around them so that they can work together more easily.
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