I’m part way through running a Coaching Skills for Leaders in Education’ and, as always when I have to deliver or share information, it makes me think and review my own practice. The group that I am working with are wonderfully engaged and curious and this means that when we reflect together we are coming up with some processes and ideas around coaching that are bespoke for their working world. We made some notes on contracting as well as how we use coaching, so I thought it might be interesting for other people who are considering how coaching fits into daily work.
First: The introduction
We discussed how the coachee was going to come to you. Being offered the opportunity to have some coaching is one thing, to be sent for coaching might feel completely different. We need to remember that coaching is fundamentally a supportive intervention and must not be remedial or punitive. It is, however, developmental – there is a subtle difference.
Next: Setting up the meeting
The first meeting needs to be a ‘chemistry conversation’. This is an opportunity for
you and your (potential) coachee to see if you can get on easily and to decide whether it will be a fruitful match. Covering basic facts at this stage means that you can start your first ‘real’ coaching conversation swiftly and get going on meaningful work without any hindrance.
This group also wanted to discuss how we use a coaching approach without formal meetings: in essence how we are able to support individuals to find their own route through specific problems that might arise on a day to day basis. The beauty of this is that we can encourage people to stand on their own feet, find answers and explore safely to implement their own solutions.
Third: A few general tips
✓ Remember to set up the room (tables, chairs, lighting) so that you can work with good body language.
✓ Remember not to ‘collude’, show empathy rather than sympathy.
✓ Remember to let the coachee lead the conversation: if it is difficult to get started, then use a narrative approach and build rapport. Maybe ask them to talk about their week? Their weekend?
✓ Make sure that you have prepared beforehand and that you both have time. There is little worse than having to stop the conversation at a crucial point!
Finally: Coaching contract – the ground rules
Ideally these should be set by both coach and coachee together, but experience tells me that it isn’t always that easy. To start with, it is important to identify any assumptions (it’s confidential isn’t it?) and to make sure that you both have the same, clear understanding of how your conversations will go. You may need to prompt your coachee with some possibilities to get started.
Remember – you need to build a comfortable environment of trust, rapport and ease. Here are a few things that you may want to cover:
Safe-space, what ‘confidential’ means to each of you, elements which may not be confidential or which you may need to share (serious issues, safeguarding, immoral or illegal behaviour. Decide and state how you will deal with this if it should arise).
Booking and planning meetings
Contact details, missed appointments, emergencies, where and how you will meet, length of meetings, making changes.
Notes that you take, what you will share, how you will safeguard privacy
Creating the quiet time and space for a high-quality, focussed conversation.
Openness, frankness and boundaries of comfortable conversation
What will you ask? What won’t you ask? What are you both comfortable with? Stopping the conversation. Postponements. Emotions.
Declaration of interest
Are there any conflicts? Family, friends or professional relationships which might affect the openness and psychological safety’ that you need to develop?
Not there to give advice, judge or provide the answers. Essentially we are facilitating the coachee to find answers for themselves.
Holding to account, telling, shifting boundaries
You may want to discuss how you’ll help your coachee to keep their commitment to action, or to share your own experience. Be clear on how you’ll do this.
It would be great to hear what you would add to this brief ‘get started’ list.