August 26, 2016

Do you have coaching advice to guide your approach?

By Paul Laughlin

coaching adviceBusiness travel has been the theme of this week (so podcasts have been used of course). Enjoying sunny days in Cardiff, London & Edinburgh. So, I’m returning to sharing other useful online content. With our current monthly focus on leadership development, through coaching & mentoring, I’ve been searching cyber space for coaching advice worth sharing.

I kept in mind common questions or objections I’ve heard; whenever I raise the topic of leadership coaching. So, here’s some online coaching advice, to help you come to your own conclusions.

To start with, let’s begin with the thorny issue of ensuring you select the right coach or mentor for you.

Coaching Survey results to guide your selection decisions

No, it’s not yet time to share the results of our own survey on use of coaches & mentors. If you haven’t yet completed that, please do, as we need more participants before results are worth sharing.

The survey referred to by this title is the annual global coaching survey run by Sherpa Coaching. A really useful resource, covering the experience of coaches across 65 countries (even if you need to purchase the report to get the full detail):

A few interesting findings struck me from this 2016 report. Related to the question of how you should find the right coach, you’ll see that 76% of purchasers still  make their decision based on personal referral. A slight increase in demand for coaching is reported, but still focussed on executive coaching rather than more junior leadership roles.

As a coach who works as much via Skype as in person, it was interesting to also note that the largest volume of coaching is still delivered ‘in person’ (37%), but other methods now form the majority if combined (phone = 25%, internet video = 22%, HD video = 7%). As the spread of super broadband increases, I’m sure we will see these continue to shift, as well as hopefully the adoption of wider collaboration tools.

Another key question is, can you be bothered? Or put another way, do you have the motivation to tackle your problems?

The benefits of Solution Focussed Thinking

Since participating in an engaging workshop at the annual Welsh Coaching Conference, I’ve been interested in Solution-Focussed Coaching. For those who are Association for Coaching members, there is an interesting academic article on the topic in Volume 9, 2016 of  “Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice“. But, I’m conscious most of my readers will not have or need access to that journal. So, I was pleased to find this very accessible introduction by Steve Mueller:

Problem vs. Solution Focused Thinking

Every person approaches a problem in a different way. Some focus on the problem or the reason why a problem emerged (problem focused thinking). Others prefer to think about possible solutions that help them to solve a problem (solution focused thinking).

Although that doesn’t focus on application in coaching, I hope it has helped you consider the importance of your mindset or focus. Could you help yourself, or do more profitable work with your coach, if you focussed on finding solutions rather than problems?

Strength Based Coaching for leaders & teams

Another objection, I hear, relates to leaders already feeling maxed out focussed on their ‘development areas’. It seems their Personal Development Plans are mainly full of seeking to address weaknesses. My own experience & academic research suggests this is less effective than ‘playing to your strengths‘ and recognising all leaders will be ‘spiky‘ (with a mix of strengths & weaker areas). In a previous post, I shared a review of an accessible book that can help managers take that approach (Strength Finders).

To help you consider how such an approach can apply to your own leadership coaching, or work with teams, an expert in this field is Dr Doug Mackie. So, I was delighted to find this podcast on SoundCloud. It takes the form of an interview with Team Coaching Zone (warning, there a rambling intro, so you may want to skip to 17 mins):

I recognise that is a long audio episode to share with you, but I hope you find it useful as an introduction to the reality of research on Positive Psychology. Clearly there is more work to be done, but Doug has helped with the publication of “Strength-Based Leadership Coaching“. We should not be taking this approach as leaders or coaches because we have been persuaded by evangelical advocates of strength-based methods, but because they work. I also agree with Doug’s key point that strength based approaches aren’t about denying the existence of weaknesses or failing to address any that might be ‘red flags’ for your career development (or wellbeing). 360 degree assessments can also be a very helpful tool in applying this.

My key takeaway, is research does now exist, to show that strength based coaching does benefit leadership effectiveness.

Next Steps

Hope those coaching advice resources are helpful, both to coaching & coachees.

Let us know if it prompts any further questions in your mind. Have any other coaching methods really helped you as a leader?

If you have been persuaded that a solutions focus or strength based method could help you, what will you now do differently? Does your current Personal Development Plan reflect that?