I was asked on LinkedIn how less sure and less experienced coaches could increase their confidence to ask the most useful questions which can often be the hardest to ask (and answer) because of their openness and deliberate vagueness.
However, we believe that one characteristic of managers who are leaders is that they adopt a coaching approach (rather than a telling approach) so this should be of interest to all managers, supervisors and team leaders in the workplace.
Replace it with curiosity: What would happen if I did ask one or two of these questions, when it felt right for the client? How might the client respond? How might I then respond? Play an imaginary conversation through in your head (I do this all the time when I’m driving to a client). Set an intention before you go into the session, and then just cast that intention to the breeze.
The best way to do this is to go to lots of networking events, arrange lots of one to one meetings with the people you meet there. When the conversation gets to the point of the other person asking “Enough about me, tell me about what you do”, reply by saying:
“Perhaps I could it explain it by showing you one of the models that I use”.
We should all base our work on theory which, if not proven, at least can be justified by reference to credible, if not revered, third parties. By explaining a model, you are transferring the credibility to yourself. So, if you don’t have a model you can demonstrate, and preferably draw on a piece of paper as you go, find one! The only caveat is you have to know the model well because you have to be able to field convincingly questions like, “I don’t understand why this bit goes there, why doesn’t it go there?”.
What happens, as you are talking through your model, is that the one to one meeting more or less becomes a coaching session. You can encourage this, by asking part way through something like, “does any of this resonate with you?”. It will. And then, off you go, with your “and”s and “what next?”s.
Don’t worry that the person you’re talking to will bridle at these questions. If you approach the whole conversation authentically, ie with the purpose of simply explaining the model as well as you can (with no attachment to them becoming a client, for example), you will find they lap it up and you get the practice in—and you have powerfully conveyed to them what you do, and how you do it.
When I first started emotional intelligence at work, I needed to be able to demonstrate one of my models—which happens to be exceptionally complicated—with complete ease and apparent fluency. I was also new to the UK west country at the time, and I was also new to the SME market. To raise my profile, I arranged lots of one to one meetings with fellow business people and I just practised showing them this model. I must have described it fifty times in nine months.
If you work with businesses, you don’t need to know what the business does, of about its market sector. That said, some potential employers cannot let go of their belief that you have to know all this stuff. You may have to roll with it.
I inadvertently learnt this when I was a business consultant and I was thrown into a room full of senior mangers in he rail industry all of them, to a man (and they were all men), resented my presence in their office because I didn’t have twenty years’ experience of the rail industry. Find out what happened next. I often tell this story, particularly if there is a whiff of this attitude from potential clients.
If you’re not confident, but you are doing the things confident people do, who can tell the difference? The big answer is that, if you’re not doing it with integrity, if you are obviously playing a role (the role of “confident coach”), if you are clearly “pretending” to be a confident coach, you will be found out immediately.
So integrity, authenticity boils down to always addressing the needs of the client (not your need to be seen to be a “great” coach). Do it as well as you can. Let go of any persona you might be inadvertently cultivating. If that’s difficult, try replacing it with curiosity: “What would happen if I did do this? Only one way to find out…”.
“I can’t do this new stuff because I can’t do it perfectly yet”. This is just a subtle trap designed to ensure that we never have to try something new by creating a seemingly plausible reason. It’s true, too. You’ll never get to the point where you can do it perfectly. But perfection isn’t needed: good enough will do. And, if to start with, you fall short of that, it doesn’t matter; that’s how you learn: practice.
For some reason, lost in the mists of time, I studied Russian in the sixth form at school. Our Russian master’s favourite saying was the witches’ advice to Macbeth: “Be bloody, bold and resolute”.
As coaches, we are often expecting our clients to be bold and resolute, if not bloody. We have to show the way—we have to lead.
> Networking guide
> What do managers who are leaders do that managers who aren’t leaders don’t do?
> Train [case study]
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2014 Jeremy Marchant Limited . added 31 may 2014 . image: Free images
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