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Effective coaching isn't an online questionnaire

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 10:56

By Kate Neser, Centre for Public Management

There are several models that can be used in effective coaching.  These vary depending upon the objectives of the coaching, the thinking or learning style of the coachee and the preferences of the coach.  But central to all coaching approaches is the use of questions to guide a coachee to consider a range of issues associated with achieving their objectives. 

If this is the essence of coaching, then why don’t we just set up a clever online platform that asks a set of questions, based on the responses of the coachee?   Surely this would be more efficient, and it’s not unheard of.  But where this kind of tool is actually used, it is generally used as a supplement to one-to-one personal coaching, not as a replacement.

The natural conclusion, therefore, is that there is something brought to the table by the coach which impacts upon the effectiveness of the coaching interaction.

The mindset that the coach brings is crucial.  The coach must create an open, safe space in which a coachee feels supported and empowered to explore options, get real about the situations they are facing, consider their objectives and come up with solutions.

A coach who relates to a coachee as competent, capable, engaged and solutions-focussed will lead a coaching conversation in a very different way to a coach who relates to a coachee as incompetent, incapable, disengaged and easily defeated by obstacles.

While a key component of coaching is asking the right questions, the process is really brought to life by the coach themselves as Kate Neser explains.

In 2010, Dr Jonathan Passmore undertook a study into the coachees’ experience of coaching, to determine the factors that contributed to effective coaching.  Amongst other factors, the coach’s personal attributes were found to be a key contributing factor in the coachee’s experience of the coaching and its effectiveness.

The positive attributes identified in the study were experience, being affirming, being non-judgmental, being trustworthy and being independent.  These ways of being can be challenging for a manager adopting a coaching approach, as so often a manager’s job requires them to be critical of work output to ensure quality outcomes.  The position requires them to constantly make judgements regarding the best course of action and includes the challenge of being truly independent when you are also accountable.

Deliberately stepping into a coaching space as a manager requires focus and effort, to reduce these natural and learned behaviours.  It does not mean that you abandon them all together, but if you have decided that a coaching approach in a particular situation is the best way to develop capability and build performance in a staff member, then adopting these ways of being will achieve this objective more effectively.

As well as the tools and the questions that can be used to be an effective coach, it is just as important to focus on an open, supportive way of being to open up exploration in the conversation and allow the coachee to find their own solutions that draw on their strengths to build their capability

Reference: Passmore, J. (2010). A grounded theory study of the coachee experience: The implications for training and practice in coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review 5(1), 48-62. 

AIM’s Centre for Public Management (CPM) delivers a wide range of management and leadership services to public sector departments and agencies, helping build capability and improve performance through the development of human capital.

We’re able to deliver a number of solutions including residential leadership programs, workshop-based development programs run on agency premises and tailored facilitation and planning services.