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Leading Teams With the C.O.A.C.H Cards

Russell Stratton, president leadership champion with Bluegem Learning.

I work with organizations just like yours to help managers be even better at improving results for individuals and the teams that they work with.

In a previous blog, I was talking about our C.O.A.C.H Model to help managers coach for results...

Thinking about how we can make coaching easy, what I'd like you to do to make it even easier, because although we can have the model and it's five stages, let's just recap on those.

What's the current situation? What outcomes are desired? What actions do we have possible to us? What's that critical choice of which action we're going to take? And finally, how are we going to hold the person accountable?

But that might not be enough, rather than just going into the conversation with those five elements to cover.

What about if we had some structured questions that will help you have the conversation with your employee and help them focus their thinking and make it easier for both of you...

That would be great, right?

Actually we have that because when Ken and I designed the C.O.A.C.H Model, we also designed a card deck of useful questions that you could use for each stage of the model.

What I'd like to do is just to talk you through a couple of examples, just so you can see how this works.

The concept behind this is that the cards are literally playing cards size. These will fit nicely into your pocket. They fit into your jacket pocket or your purse, and there's a couple of ways that you can use them.

First of all, before the meeting with your employee, you can sit and plan out the type of questions that you might use at each stage. You don't have to use all of them, but at least it gives you some structure and avoids that sort of blank moment of what do I ask next?

The other way that we can use this is by physically using the cards and putting them down on the desk opposite in our employee so that it can help them focus their thinking.

Particularly if people aren't used to coaching conversations, they're not sure where they're going with their answer. This helps them to keep them focused.

Let's have a look at a couple of examples then.

We were looking at people, helping people to think about the current situation. What's happening at the moment that may be causing them difficulties?

Well, one of the questions we might ask is, "what's the biggest priority for you at work at the moment?" This helps us focus on the priority issues and not minor issues.

Once somebody describes that to you, perhaps a secondary question could be, "on a scale of one to ten how serious is this situation?"

This helps us focus then on whether it's a minor irritation or if it's something that the project's going to fail if we don't deal with this.

I like using the scale questions between one and ten because it helps people to think about how much of an issue it is, how much they want to do it and how important it is for them. It also allows you to ask a supplementary question. We'll come to that a little bit later on.

If we move on to our second stage of the conversation, we're talking about the outcomes desired.

Let's have a look at a couple of questions we might use here.

The first one could be, "what outcome would be ideal? Just asking that upfront, what is it that you want to get? What's your goal?" Supplementary from here is potentially to ask somebody, what do you really want?

Often people think they know what they want. You know, I want 'x', that's going to solve this problem, but when you delve a little bit deeper that it's not really what they're after.

Perhaps what they want to use is something that is going to make their life a little bit easier.

This type of question enables you to drill down a little bit. Hopefully we're getting the idea of how this works...

These are just questions that are prompts for you and your employee.

Let's move on to our third part of the core conversation about possible actions.

Here's a couple of things for people to reflect upon what they might do or what they might need.

What do you need from me or others to help you achieve this?

This question gets our employee thinking about...

What are the resources do they need? Do they need some support from me as their manager or their coworkers that they perhaps could seek advice from? Who might those people be?

Another question that's useful at this stage is, have you ever tackled a similar situation before?

Because often people think that the first time they come up with a problem could be the only time they've dealt with that. Perhaps they've dealt with something similar in a different job or in a voluntary capacity outside of work, or perhaps in their home life.

You know, I've never had to deal with a difficult customer. This is very stressful for all. Have you ever dealt with somebody who's difficult before? I dealt with a difficult coach that I had when I was playing hockey.

How did you deal with that situation?

Get people to think about where they've tackled these sorts of problems before and how they can draw that learning into the current situation at work.

We move on to our critical choice. We might want to be trying to ask people, what do you think is stopping you? Often people come up with a lot of ideas of what they could do, but what's stopping them from taking action? Sometimes that'll help you unlock what perhaps that mental roadblock is.

Again we have one of these scale questions. On a scale of one to ten, what's the likelihood of your plan succeeding?

This gets somebody to think about the options that they were considering. On a scale of one to ten, one being, "it's not likely to happen." Nine would be, "yeah I'm pretty sure that's going to be achievable."

I told you about that supplementary question. Let's say you ask somebody, "what's the likelihood of their planet being successful?" And they say, "well, like a three out of ten." The supplementary question is, "how do you make that a nine again?" Just to think about what else do they need to do to push it over the edge.

A final set of questions here about helping people remain accountable. "What one small step will you take now?" Because coaching conversations are great at helping people think about what their issues are, what solutions there could be, and what would they like to do?

But if they don't actually do anything, that conversation has been wasted. So, just by getting them to think about the next step that they're going to take today, tomorrow it can be that powerful kick-start to get them going.

Our final question here is, on a scale of one to ten, how committed are you to your plan? This is worth the person reflecting about how much they really want to do this, because if they are committed, the chances of achieving their commitments are ten, or if one not so much.

Again, here's a follow up question. If they're only a one, what would you need for you to be an eight or a nine?

Hopefully just in this video I gave you a chance to see how the coaching questions fit with the C.O.A.C.H Model and how you can make your job even easier, and your conversation even more effective with your employee.

We're actually going to be having you work with these coaching questions and our coach model and practice doing it so that you can try it out! See how it works in real time and whether it will be beneficial for you back at the workplace with your employees.

Check out the details and we'll see you at the Lunch and Learn.

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