Friday, 1 June 2012

My favourite coaching tools: "What do I do that...?"

It is very very extremely extremely uncomfortable uncomfortable to ask for feedback the first time. But every time it is asked for, it get's a whole lot less comfortable. I teach my coachees to ask for feedback in this way, as well with their own customised 360 appraisals where the local HR system is insufficient in my opinion. But this caveat applies to really helping coachees take this first step, to requesting, and preparing them for receiving the feedback, and later on for processing what the feedback means and then deciding what to do.

I learned about this tool in 2007 on a soft skills training course but I am unsure where the traininer found it. And have applied it successfully for my own growth approximately every 3 months. I have also taught it to many others for their own growth. It is very simple, very quick, and very effective. I did find essentially this tool is also used in Peter Drucker's "manager's letter" which I previously wrote about.

A well selected colleague to ask in a safe environment
Paper/diary and pen

Step 1: Coachee thanks the colleague for coming to the meeting. Coachee explains that they would like to improve their effectiveness at work, and that this is 1 of the steps in order to do so. That this step is about understanding how others - the colleague - perceive the coachee.

Step 2: Coachee then asks the simple question "What do I do that helps you?". And remains open with facial expression, body language and speech whilst writing notes down on everything that is provided. When the colleague has finished, the coachee thanks the colleague for their input.

Step 3: And now for the more tricky (cringe factor) question "What do I do that hinders you?". Again, thanks to the previous practice with remaining open and non-judging in Step 2, the coachee simply copies all the input down as it comes. This is not the time to process, nor is the time to defend. The job is keep listening and keep making notes, no matter what is said.

Most times what is said is quite good. Occasionally an inappropriate attach or negative criticism is passed, but this is extremely rare in my experience and in my coachees' experiences. The great thing about becoming adults is that we lose our childhood ability to be just plain horrible to each other without realising how horrible we're being! Adults treat these opportunities to provide feedback to colleagues with respect and sincerity, usually.

When the input is completed, the coachee again thanks the provider.

Step 4: SOMETIMES MAGIC happens at this point. This is when the colleague has just experienced a MOMENT and now wishes to receive feedback also. And the coachee now becomes the mentor of this new tool as well as the provider of respectful feedback.

Step 5: Final thanks and wrap up of the session.

After the session, the input is now analysed for interesting (positive, negative, confusing, learnings, etc) things which I and the coachee discuss. Occasionally the input causes an emotional response - be prepared! Self-growth and self-awareness is not an easy ride.

Over time, as the people giving feedback and the coachee become familiar with the tool, and with each other in this new dimension of their relationship, there does exist the opportunity to clarify feedback where it is vague or abstract. To ask for specific objective examples and separate out the feelings and really increase the level of empathy and understanding of what's really going on at work.

This data collected is then used as input to the coaching plan. Sometimes some of the feedback is so powerful to the coachee that they write key items on post-it notes and stick them up on the refrigerator at home, or monitor - anywhere they can see them often, can see them at the beginning of the day and be reminded to repeat, or to not repeat actions/behaviours which resulted in the feedback.

I suggest every 3 months initially and then as the relationship between the feedback requester and responder grows and changes, a natural rhythm will emerge. Of course if the coachee is not seen to be adjusting problematic behaviour from the responder's point of view, eventually the responder will stop providing so it is important to take on board the feedback and work on any issues discovered - sometimes maybe not changing own behaviour but helping the responder change theirs using influence.

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