Category: ICF 02 Establishing The Coaching Agreement

3D Ideas 810: Oh!

Claire writes: ‘The room was full of midwives and other health professionals. They weren’t really sure why they had come to the day… and suddenly one lady piped up: ‘OH!’

I begin every single thing I say to my direct reports with a version of ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ and then when I get home at night, I wonder why I worked so hard and seemed to take on everyone else’s stuff?”, she said… “I told them to give it to me, didn’t I?”

She went away, committed to starting conversations with her direct reports with: “what would you like us to think about today?” It’s not, of course, that she will never help or give solutions. It’s just that she committed in that moment of insight to start with seeing if they could work it out for themselves first.’

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3D Ideas 802: Completely Lost

Claire writes: “As professionals – in whatever field we work in – we learn that we need to know what we are doing. What I continue to learn is that I almost never know what we are doing in a conversation, and my role is to be brave and hold my nerve.

We spend several days a week training people to have transformational conversations (where you can see in someone’s eyes or their body that something significant has shifted). And what happens next? Firstly the facilitator of the conversation turns to us with a surprised ‘how did that happen?’ look… and then we often see a look of panic that says ‘Help! I have absolutely no idea what to do now’. That loss of control is scary. And transformation is significant. Of course we are completely lost – something fundamental has changed. Thank goodness for the question ‘Where are we now?'”

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3D Ideas 799: Laundry Basket

Claire writes: “Alan describes the conversations we have as a place to help someone sort through their mountain of laundry. The role of the coach – and indeed the mentor, supervisor or manager (usually) is not to wash their clothes – but to support someone else to sort stuff out enough that they can move forward themselves. And to notice when they choose to leave somes stuff at the bottom of the basket.

That’s why ‘What would you like to think about?’ can be a more useful question than the one that implies ‘What do you want me to do?’. If you are a manager who feels like they are always doing the washing, it might be worth changing the question!”

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3D Ideas 796: Suggestible

Claire writes: “I’m just beginning to realise that the questions we ask to open conversations could be perceived as suggestible:

  • What would you like to think about (… because I’m assuming we will be thinking as well as talking…)
  • What would you like to be different by the end of the conversation (… because I am assuming something will be…)

Interestingly they also inspire and suggest that things can change and move on. And it works! So why not?

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3D Ideas 788: What about what

Claire writes: “‘Simplicity is not a simple thing’ said Charlie Chaplin. At 3D, it is a journey for us to continue to simplify what we are learning and what we share. What we are learning is this: If I bring too much to a conversation – in terms of words, process or content – then I will end up doing most of the work. When we are truly empowering our colleague to think, they will be doing most of the work. Coaching is simply keeping them company while they think (and provoking where necessary). That’s why we don’t like using words like client or coachee – we are speaking with a person – who, we hope, has come to think.

We know that transformation in a conversation is more likely to happen when you have a container and boundaries to what you are doing together. Whatever you use to co-create a container, whether it is Dorothy Strachan’s What – So what – Now what – or Hawkins and Smith’s CLEAR – Contract – Listen Explore – Action – Review, we need to remember that if this conversation is about our colleague thinking, then the What/Contract stage is for them not for me. When we spend too long in the What/Contract, it is probably because I am asking questions so that I understand. If I am trying to understand, I am probably intending to find the problem and solve it for you. A coaching style is about whether you understand (enough) what we are doing today – how we are going to do it and how we will know we have done it.

If you use 3D’s coaching container to form conversations, remember that the What/Contract is for the thinker. And it’s useful in much more than coaching!”

© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
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3D Ideas 780: Coddiwomple

Claire writes: “Coddiwomple, Sam tells me, means to travel purposefully towards a vague destination. I love that – because like others I am often unclear where I want to head when I am being coached. And, indeed, our business plan is more about direction than destination. Not everyone likes goals or targets, so it’s useful to remember that when we are working out in a conversation (or contracting)

  • what are we doing
  • how are we going to do it
  • how will we know we have done it

that a sense that we’ll feel it can be enough. It’s still important to be clear what we are doing – even if that’s to agree that we don’t know and that it will emerge! For some of us, ‘to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive’ (Robert Louis Stevenson)

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3D Ideas 779: Time

Claire writes: I think it’s a Swahili proverb that says ‘time the time before the time times you’. As a teacher in a rural Kenyan secondary school, it was a mantra of some of my students. When we are training, we often hear people say that mentioning the time is rude. Might it suggest I don’t value you? Might it collude with an ‘in a hurry’ mentality?

For all our hang ups, being unconditionally positive about time can give an edge to a conversation that makes it even more effective. As long as we don’t apologise and we start mentioning time early.

Instead of saying

  • ‘I only have 5 minutes’ try being positive from the very beginning ‘We have 5 minutes, how shall we use it?’
  • ‘We are out of time’ try (a minute or so before ‘Have we finished?’
  • ‘We only have a couple of minutes left’ try ‘In the couple of minutes we have left is there anything else we need to do?’

And I learned this summer that using this approach at end of life was equally useful: ‘Given that [someone] is going to die, what do you both need to do between now and when it happens to make sure you both end well?’

If you’re going to do this well, you need a watch or a clock. A smartphone means you can’t optimise the time. Unless you’re one of those people who knows exactly how long time is!

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3D Ideas 775: Weird Words

Claire writes: “The number one reason that people don’t apply what they are learning about coaching into every conversations at work is that they think it sounds weird to say: ‘Can I coach you?’. It probably does – and it sounds like you’re about to do something to someone. Given that coaching isn’t magic, and fundamentally is a conversation with someone that’s only about them, it can be used at work easily. It’s even great as triage – let’s talk about what kind of support you might need…

Some things people find work:

  • Shall we talk about that in a different way?
  • Would you like me to help you think about that?

Or if you’re worried about getting the contract right, give them a STOKeRS card and say – these questions might help us start our conversation well – why don’t you have a look and talk through them.”

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3D Ideas 772: Pinning Down

Claire writes: ‘”Don’t interrupt”. Spoken or implied, that’s a message most of us had wired into us as children. So when we are in a conversation where we are thinking “what is it we are can usefully do here”, we don’t interrupt.

A coaching style demonstrates that we can learn to stop interrupting people’s thinking and start interrupting when they are repeating stuff they know already if it’s not useful to them.

Try interrupting talking with short contracting questions

  • So today…?
  • And your question for us today is: How can I…? (NB the I is them not you!)

And try not interrupting thinking by listening with your eyes – by watching theirs.”

© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
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3D Ideas 768: No Idea

Claire writes: ‘Surely you can’t do a contract (STOKeRS) with someone doesn’t know what they want to think about? That’s a question we are asked a lot – about a coaching style and in Action Learning. A contract at the start of a conversation is simply agreeing together

  • What are we doing today
  • How are we going to do it
  • How will we know we have done it

… before we start.

If we don’t agree together, there is a risk that I will decide by leading the questions.  And if the person who is thinking doesn’t know, we know that we don’t know what we are doing yet!  Outlining what’s going on might be a good start – as well as questions like ‘is this useful?’
In fact when the people say ‘I don’t know’ when we ask ‘Where shall we start?’ we can say what we are thinking: ‘As you speak some of the questions that come up in my mind are… so where shall we start?’.  In an Action Learning Set, that’s a great opportunity to invite the set members to write on a sticky note what their opening question might be – and to give it to the presenter so they can decide.’
© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
May be distributed freely.  Please retain contact details: www.3dcoaching.com and send a copy/ link to info@3dcoaching.com   Register here to receive our blog posts every Monday by email