It is now well-known that business performance is positively influenced through coaching. Coaching integrates both, the professional as well as the personal world of an individual while enabling him to achieve his goals.
This is easier said than done. Coaching seeks to provide the answer through a continuous mechanism of dialogue between the coach and the coachee. Coaching tries to bring the best out of the individual and the success of coaching is reckoned through achievement of mile-stones and goals based on dialogues. The first step in the dialogue must focus on the selection of an appropriate path. This can also answer the difficult question: ‘How do we get started in this conversation?’. This also helps, both the coach as well as the coachee, remain on course for the subsequent rounds of conversation.
Dialogue is the true ‘fulcrum’ of coaching and empowers the coach as well as the coachee. The coachee maybe a high profile executive with multi-million dollar authority.
The coach has no such authority but can exercise considerable influence through dialogue alone. He keeps the conversation focused during the ‘dialogue’ and provides enough empowerment to the coachee at every stage for idea generation and actions. The fact that the individual (coachee) can take actions based on his own solutions for a dilemma on hand can be highly empowering. There is no other tool except ‘dialogue’ that can give rise to this feeling of empowerment and flexibility.
One of the vital ingredients that can enable effective ‘dialogue’ is ‘rapport’ between the two engaging parties. Rapport is based on trust and credibility, initially through dialogue and later through follow-ups and actions based on mutual commitments made. Other aspects include good listening skills and ‘listening for potential’ on the part of the coach coupled with the ability to provide honest and clear feedback. These aspects ensure that the dialogue remains grounded in reality and is objective. Creation of powerful insights is a desired outcome of dialogue and it is here that ‘Questioning’ ability plays a vital role. Questioning is a power tool in the dialogue mechanism and thought provoking questions that can generate powerful insights determines the end result of the coaching engagement.
Coaching conversation or dialogue is actually seven conversations as under:
- Coach’s dialogue with himself before the session
- Coachee’s inner dialogue before the session
- Coach’s inner dialogue during the conversation
- Spoken dialogue
- Client’s inner dialogue during conversation
- Coach’s reflection post the conversation
- Coachee’s reflection and insights post the conversation
The spoken dialogue is the heart of the conversation but the success of the spoken dialogue is dependent on the quality of the other six dialogues. It is also the most obvious form of the conversation. Few pertinent questions to ask oneself as a coach during the spoken dialogue phase are as under:
- Is there a logical pattern of development to the conversation?
- Are we exploring issues from multiple perspectives?
- Who is doing most of the talking / coming up with ideas / adding value to the dialogue (conversation)?
- Is the pace, tone, pitch adequately varied in keeping with the conversation mood?
- Are both the parties engaged in the conversation?
A step-wise approach to dialogue can be delineated as under:
Objective: What do we mutually seek to achieve today?
Present State: Where are we currently on this and How important is it to look at this afresh?
Alternatives: How do we resolve this and How can we obtain right support that helps provide direction?
Monitor and Review: How do we ensure that we take quick actions and demonstrate effectiveness?
Effective dialogue is an inclusive process and take into account the strategy as well as the culture in the organization while coaching. It is imperative to ensure that a dialogue happens only with sufficient background. Background can be in the form of collection of information, analysis and validation of the same through credible sources.
This can be related to technology, markets, competition, threats and opportunities in the business environment to name a few. It is important to note that dialogue is only an enabler and serves as the means towards the end.
The purpose of the coaching dialogue is to generate new meanings around the dilemma or anomaly that is brought to the session. In a dialogue with the coachee, questions are introduced that encourage reflection and creation of new insights based on the coachee’s perspective. Once new insights are generated, new pathways for action can be identified. Goals are realized at a personal and organizational level only when actions are planned through an effective ‘dialogue’ framework and subsequently implemented.