I feel you can use this tool with anyone - no matter how open/closed you/they are. You can use it for yourself even. However I do realise that it is possible some thing(s) might come up/be mentioned that require a much more safe environment and a much more experienced+educated counsellor to really deal with appropriately. Try to avoid those things.
Pen and paper
Knowledge of Johari Window (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window)
Optional, but HIGHLY desirable:
A sensible/sensitive enough recording device (that you have previously tested) is preferable but this exercise can still be extremely fruitful without
Step 0: Record the date, start time and coachee name on the paper - remember to record the end time as well. Make sure your own mind and body are comfortable and restful - you too will be fully engaged in this session for it to go well!
Step 1: Make sure your coachee is focussed and engaged and happy to be recorded. If the coachee is happy, start the recorder, else put the recorder away. Prepare for much note taking.
Step 2: Ask the coachee to pick the start date. Usually in a work environment I ask for the date to be when they met for interviews or their first day at work. Take brief note of the date and try to understand the coachee's body language.
Step 3: Ask them to try to cover as much ground as they can in 15-20 minutes - their timelined biography of what they did, what they learned, what they felt, how their career progressed. Usually the coachee is really good at timeboxing the story they're telling, not that it matters too much. What's important is capturing what is remembered and very important - how it is remembered. Make notes, and make notes of questions that you might want to raise to get more of the story and emotion surfaced.
Step 4: Ask the questions and record the answers - look especially for areas which you believe might be important in the person's work life that were not mentioned (obviously this depends on how well you know the person by this stage). Avoid questions that are beyond the scope of the relationship you have with the coachee at this stage
Step 5: Wrap up and explain what happens next, make sure the coachee is comfortable and thinks enough was said (you can paraphrase the timeline). Turn off the recorder and take a note of the time! End the session.
Step 6: Get some headphones, play the recording back to yourself slightly slower speed, and type everything that was said. You don't have to analyse it, but you need to make sure it is an accurate type-up of exactly what the coachee said - beware of the shortcuts you would and DID take mentally during the interview. Type what the coachee said, and how they said it - if they giggled, or hummmed, or errrrrrred, or paused... make sure to catch their words, not your translations. Initially you think this will take a long time, and it does, but you do get better at it, and your typing does improve a great deal! This is because your WIP memory expands a great deal it is exercised more thoroughly and intensively.
* As an aside it is interesting and educational for you/yourself to also take a note of what you thought you heard, and what was actually said!
Step 7: Read through the type-up and make notes for yourself about what you see that the coachee does not - this feeds into the Johari Window rooms. I've found spiritual and leadership potential, I've found root causes of huge levels of frustration and anxiety at work, trust issues and lots lots more.
Step 8: Have another session with the coachee. Ensure they are safe and engaged. Provide the type-up document, and the audio file back to the coachee. Ask the coachee to read through the document and if there is anything missing, add to it.
Step 9: Now you can give the coachee some work to do and this is where you need to be a little creative sometimes. You've now uncovered some things - either content, emotion or personality - in this person's [life] story at work over this period, that they're not aware of - and it might be good to educate the coachee about Johari Window at this stage.
Often there is enough in the type-up for the person to really think about, and together you can plan some coaching goals and work to achieve them to improve an aspect even at this stage.
Often there is more, deeper work that can be undertaken by the coachee on their journey if they become more aware of it. However you, as coach, in this session, are not allowed to give direction. You are allowed to design 1-2 "filters" though to help the coachee sort and categorise things, which might make them more aware of things about themselves they are currently blind to.
I used different filters for coachees to apply successfully in the past:
- Mad / Sad / Glad
- What Went Well (WWW) / What Did Not Go Well (
- I lead / I followed
- Drop / Keep / Improve
- Motivations: Health / Mental / Spiritual
- Recognised for / not recognised for
And I am sure there are many more. With the categorisation done, allow the coachee to reflect back to you what it means. Sometimes they have many questions, sometimes they don't understand what they have just done, sometimes they do not profess to having learned anything new or worthwhile from the time invested.
But often they do, sometimes they even see the things you see. Sometimes they see things you did not (the rose-tinted spectacles take a long time and much practice and reflection to become clear!).
Whatever they outcome is though, the coachee now has material and some idea(s) about what coaching goals to prioritise and work towards with your help.
Step 10: Make some notes for yourself about how the session went, the type-up, what you learned at the various stages, and what the outcomes were. How did the coachee's body language reflect different things as they were saying them, and did this concur when you asked the questions? This is also about continuous self improvement, in order to help others on their journeys much more effectively.
See also my post on Peter Drucker's "manager's letter" which can also collect incredibly powerful insights into the work experience of a coachee.