Want to get straight to the point in your coaching conversations? Here's what Facebook can teach us.  

When we’re all so busy, it can be easy to think as leaders that we just haven’t got time for coaching conversations; that we need to carve out huge chunks of time to have them.  

But that doesn’t have to be the case.  

Coaching is about developing people and recognizing opportunities for learning; it’s also about improving performance and results. It can develop more effective and resilient indi viduals and teams with the added benefit that people feel great that you’re investing in them – hence, there’s a natural impact on retention, buy in, and an increased commitment from employees.  What easier way to impact positively on your culture? 

T he coaching conversation is far more than a  nice to have . And if we can find a way to get straight to the point, well, why wouldn’t we take it? 

It seems odd to think that social media – often seen as shallow and trivial – can provide us with useful insights on how to begin meaningful coaching conversations.  

Before you compose a tweet, Twitter asks: “What’s happening?”  

We know enough about this social media g iant to know that this question isn’t random. It will have been carefully thought about with human beings in mind.  

Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” is a great opening to the coaching conversation, as Michael Bungay Stanier observes in his book  The Coaching Habit.  

What makes the question such a good one?  

  • It’s nice and open and allows people to get to the point quickly  
  • It’s not telling people what they should be talking about  
  • It gives out a big, bold message that we’re interested in them  
  • It signals that we’re not trying to control the agenda – ownership sits with them  
  • It gives people the opportunity to explore what’s most important to them in that moment  
  • It’s simple and clear with no opportunity for confusion.  

Be authentic  

Of course, as with any human interaction, it’s all in the delivery. We need to be authentic, bring warmth to the way we ask it, improvise around it – if we stick to the above principles - so we don’t become predictable robots.  

Where shall we begin? Where would you like to start? Where’s the best place to start? These are all questions which, Stanier observes, ensure people have autonomy and  take responsibility. There’s not an inbuilt assumption that someone else will be controlling the conversation or has all the answers.  

 Avoid some of the obvious questions like “How can I help?”  

There’s an assumption in this question that you’re the person that can help them; it immediately, but very subtly, changes the dynamic of the relationship putting yourself in a superior position.  

So  it’s worth giving a little bit of time to create a resource of opening questions for your coaching conversations. Starting them from the right place will really determine the outcomes. 

And when you’ve asked it - what next?  

Just shut up. Keep quiet. Say nothing. Sit with the silence. Even if it becomes awkward.  

Give the person the time and space to think. Don’t try to jump in and save them or point to the area you think they need most support with.  

Don’t think because you are the leader, you’re sure to know what’s best.  

Coaching conversations have the power to change your relationship with your team. They have the power to change your culture

Sarah Carter is a Specialist Consultant with a passion for helping leaders create strong and healthy cultures.  She works across the areas of culture, coaching, training and communications.  Click here to meet her.

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