- Toby Sinclair
How i approach Coaching
This year i’ve been on a journey of discovery into Coaching. My official job title is “Agile Coach” and as the title suggests a key part of the role is Coaching. This blog explores how i approach Coaching with the intention that my experience will help others interested in the topic.
What is Coaching?
This was a question that troubled me for many months. It’s not an easy question to answer. It’s something i’m still discovering but through constant reading and practice i’m much more informed than i was 12 months ago!
When someone asks me “What is Coaching?” i typically refer to this quote from the Inner Game of Tennis:
“Coaching is unlocking a persons potential to maximise their own performance.” Timothy Gallwey
I like this quote because it really highlights that the Coaching focus is always on the Coachee.
In practical terms, Coaching is a conversation where the coach uses questioning to help the Coachee build awareness of how to tackle a goal or challenge.
In my experience the question “What is Coaching?” results in many different answers so it is important to address this question directly with the Coachee early on. This helps ensure there is a shared understanding within the relationship. I have often found that to begin with people think the process is similar to Mentoring. I’ve blogged recently the differences between Coaching and Mentoring.
Types of Coaching
Coaching conversations can happen any time. It doesn’t need to happen in a formal setting or in “official” coaching sessions. Don’t let this fool you through, Coaching is a structured practice that requires practice and continual improvement.
The types of Coaching i’ve done are:
One-to-One Coaching in designated “Coaching Sessions”, usually 45mins – 1hr
Informal Coaching, for example at the “Water Cooler”.
Group Coaching, usually a whole team – A common realm for an “Agile Coach”
Whilst i’m embedding more coaching into my daily interactions with people my journey really started with One-to-One Coaching sessions. These sessions provided a safe environment to learn. Let me explain further how Coaching works in these sessions.
When it comes to One-to-One Coaching sessions i generally have two types of engagement:
People approach me directly asking for coaching towards a specific goal.
I approach others to offer coaching. In this case i’m always clear that the offer can be refused!
When i first started, rather than advertise my coaching services publicly I wanted to get some experience and practice. I spent time discussing with others my own personal goal to develop coaching experience. Eventually i found a a handful of people who were interested in being coached. I intentionally tried to find people that worked outside of my immediate influence, so not my direct team, and also people that i felt would be receptive of coaching. For the early sessions this felt like a safe environment to learn.
One of the most universally known Coaching models is “The GROW Model” and it was one of the first models i used too:
The GROW Model is a simple structure for a Coaching conversation. Personally i’ve found it incredibly useful as a mental model during the conversation to help give it structure. I also share this model with the Coachee so that it gives them a picture of how the conversation will be structured.
Whilst this is a good start, there is much more to learn. In my experience although the GROW model provides a good structure and its a great place to start, the more subtle skills are much harder to master. For example:
These topics are blog posts on their own but for now i’d recommend checking out the linked resources.
Since my early coaching sessions the number of people i’ve coached has broadened considerably. One of the fascinating benefits of coaching is the opportunity to work with people on a varied set of goals. Here are some examples (provided with consent):
Someone who wanted to improve prioritisation
Someone who wanted to find an opportunity to use physics in their career
Someone who was seeking a Promotion
A Scrum Master who wanted to build trust within their team
Although these were the stated goals at the start of the coaching engagement often the Goal might become something else. For example, a Promotion is a good example of an end goal. During the coaching we may explore some related performance goals in the control of the Coachee that could contribute to the end goal.
In the above examples it’s important to be clear that the focus is to get the Coachee to a point where they are comfortable either their goal has been met or they have made enough progress that they are happy to continue their journey without the Coach. In the above examples the length of the coaching sessions ranged from 2 – 6 1hr sessions. This is in contrast to Mentoring where the relationship may last for a longer period of time.
Now Start Your Journey!
Hopefully this has provided you with some insight into what Coaching looks like. I’ve linked to lots of resources during the blog that have really helped me in particular these 5 books.