One upon a time (because, as studies show us, storytelling is memorable) there was a little girl. Let’s call her Goldilocks, because although it’s not her real name, she did have the right hair colour and a fondness for porridge.
At her annual review in a very well known, market leading professional services firm, she was shocked to hear some uncomfortable feedback.
- “You need to learn stronger soft skills” stated the first manager. “We’re worried you’ll offend someone”
“You work very long hours, and I think it shows a certain amount of inefficiency” argued the second manager
“You’re very n-nice, but are you sure this is the r-right environment for y-you?” stammered out the third (very honest) manager, who only stammered when he was stressed… which was always.
She spent a day or two thinking about what they’d said, and wrote down all the questions she had on a piece of paper, like this:
- Is what they said valid?
- Why did they say the things they said?
- Is this the right company for me?
- If this is the right place for me to be, how do I improve?
- If this isn’t the right place for me to be, where is?
She looked at the list while chewing on the end of her pen (a habit which she always fell into when thinking hard), decided she had absolutely no idea where to start, and she emailed me.
Everyone I work with will see something they’re familiar with in that story, even though it’s not a true story. People who come for coaching invariable have a question they need to answer (I want to change career, what would suit me? How can I get promoted to senior manager? How do I improve my emotional intelligence and leadership skills?)
I think everyone can answer these questions themselves, given enough time and opportunity to get things wrong first, but neither is a luxury we often have. If you’ve been working for 2-5 years and realise you want to change direction, you’re probably only going to get 1 or 2 chances to try out alternative careers. If you’re going for a promotion, either you get it or, in many places, you will find yourself stuck at that level when you don’t as you’ve created a schema of yourself in the eyes of management. And if you need to improve some specific skills, then you have a particular need that brought this to your attention in the first place – often a need to turn around an annual review grading before it’s too late.
Coaching is, in practice, client-led (but coach-guided) learning that is tailored specifically for you – and, as the Setsights Five Principles say, teaching and coaching are not about teaching skills, they are about facilitating learning
What Setsights does
Working with the client (for individuals) and their manager in addition (for organisations), we – the client and coach – develop a coaching plan which moves through a number of steps, commencing with answering the three questions of
- What needs to change?
- What has to happen to get there (i.e. what is the coaching plan)?
- How will we know when we’re finished?
For performance coaching within organisations, observation in the workplace is used when possible to see behaviour in action and give advice while it can be applied immediately, while private clients tend to have an hour-long appointment once or twice a week with “homework”.
Get in touch if you want to know more – the first 30 minute ‘getting to know you’ session is free for private individuals, and I am happy to come in to speak to organisations wishing to discuss performance coaching.