Cath* is a returning client. Lucky me. I first coached her years ago as she was wanting to get a more senior role. She didn’t get the promotion in her organization while we worked together. She did get the higher role in another organization afterwards due to her perseverance and increasing confidence in interviewing.
She is the director of a quasi-NGO reporting to a board or panel of overseers. She had issues being clear in setting expectations and giving negative performance feedback so the panel authorized coaching for her. Like many people I work with, she struggled with having what most people call “difficult conversations.” Many people worry about giving “negative” feedback to others for fear of doing it wrong, hurting someone, making a mistake and facing emotions from the recipient that the leader couldn’t/didn’t want to handle.
The coaching focused on three areas: her leadership style, her confidence and her focus.
1. Leadership Style:
• What is leadership? This seems like an obvious question and it’s the question I always start with no matter the coaching topic. Defining the topic is key to clarity. My definition of leadership is about motivating and empowering people to achieve your desired outcome.
• What is her leadership style? Most coachees struggle with this question as they find it hard to articulate. How do you motivate people, set direction and implement palns?
• What leaders does she admire? It’s always helpful to identify people that do what you want to do well. Observing others is a great way to learn what works well and what doesn’t.
• What is confidence? Clarifying the definition again.
• Remember a time you felt really confident, personally or professionally. Where do you feel that confident feeling in your body? Once you know what confidence feels like in your body you can recreate it when you need it.
• I challenged her to notice when she is or does good things and write them down. Specifically, everyday write down (yes, writing by hand to embed it) 3 things about yourself for which you are proud. This builds the confidence muscle just as reps in the gym build strong muscles.
• What was her focus as a leader? Her focus was on her direct reports and how to engaged and empower them.
• Where did she want to start? She choose to start with being clearer with her direct reports in terms of her expectations about the work and how they do the work.
What did she need to do that? She needed training as she didn’t know how to give feedback. She hadn’t seen good role models of this. She hadn’t been trained on this despite holding a senior position. I gave her a copy of my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, which explains how to give positive and construction feedback. This is a template that Cath used a lot for giving feedback using the COIN model, here. We role-played specific scenarios. She practiced with her staff between the coaching sessions, noticed the impact, tried again, all the time persevering through the discomfort.
Near the end of the coaching, Cath informed me that her bosses might want some feedback from me about her progress. This is something as a coach I don’t do. The coachee’s progress is assessed by the coachee and the organization with me sometimes facilitating that discussion. What happens in the coaching is confidential. I would only say something if the coachee didn’t show up to the sessions, I was worried that they might be of harm to themselves or someone else or were engaging in something illegal.
She had her performance review in front of the board and my input was not required.
The performance of the organization over the last year (exceeding financial targets), the results of the external reviews (surpassing expectations) and how she was in her interactions with them (a confident leader) was a testament to her progress.
As one of them said, “How you are is all the evidence we need of the coaching working.”
Want your boss to rave about your performance?
Do difficult conversations worry you?
Do you want to feel more comfortable giving feedback?
*name and identifying details have been changed to preserve client confidentiality
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