You may hear the word ‘coaching’ and shudder, perhaps associating it with what my grandfather might have called “all that touchy-feely stuff”. It might even feel a bit like pseudo psychology, a fad that will pass or simply that it’s “nothing to do with me”.
But, in my opinion, you’d be wrong on all counts: Coaching is based on frameworks that must be learned and practiced like any skill; it grows ever-more useful as life becomes ever-more complex; and it has everything to do with you if you want to bring out the best in others.
The tension to acknowledge with coaching is that it is based on listening and asking thoughtful questions, without providing solutions. And, let’s be honest, this is often in opposition to our instincts to answer questions and resolve issues quickly.
But, what happens when those quick solutions are just a band-aid on the problem and those in receipt of your expertise seem to have relentless questions, or you sense that members of your team are not developing to their true potential? Well, then it might be time to consider coaching.
In a previous role, I took on a new line report who required a lot of support. I was their third manager in less than a year and they had a lot of questions about their core duties. At first, I felt the responsibility to answer every question immediately, but I soon started to wonder if it was a lack of confidence rather than skill or knowledge. This time when the questions came, I simply replied with:
“What do you think is best?”
And they replied:
“Nobody’s ever asked me that before.”
A five-minute monologue ensued about the problem, what they’d tried already, an evaluation of other options and their eventual conclusion on next steps.
That’s when I realised the power of asking thoughtful questions… a.k.a. coaching! It baffled and saddened me that this person hadn’t been asked for their thoughts before and had become so reliant on others for direction that they felt disempowered to use the knowledge they already had.
Coaching is about providing space and time for someone to realise their own thoughts, insights and ideas, with the wholehearted belief that they have all the resources and means to solve the problem themselves. And don’t we all deserve a little of that space, time and belief?
As a trainee coach, I’ve deepened my practice by learning and using several frameworks and tools in a way that’s authentic for me. These skills are important for all, especially in health and care, where appropriately empowering team members can positively impact on team culture and, most importantly, patient care! Qualifications aside, in the meantime, why not try listening more and asking some of my favourite thoughtful questions below to get you into the coaching groove?
- If money/time/resources etc. were boundless, what would you do to solve this problem?
- What evidence do you have to support your hunch/gut feeling about this?
- What is the first or easiest step you could take towards a solution?
Gemma is currently undertaking the Coaching Academy’s Coaching Foundations course, which is accredited by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council. You can find more about this course and much more on our Coaching Academy webpages.