Coaching for Managers: Framing the Coaching Conversation

When it comes to having coaching conversations, it’s not always that managers don’t know how to coach; it’s that conversations with employees often turn into project task updates instead of furthering their growth and development.

This is not unusual. I see it all the time when I’m called into organizations to coach. Yet it can be avoided by a simple trick.

In spite of good intentions, many managers fail to use a checklist to remind them how to set up a coaching dialogue. From the book by Zenger and Stinnett, The Extraordinary Coach, there are three steps that work well for initiating a developmental dialogue.

  1. Identify the behavior or issue to discuss. “I’d like to talk about [the issue]…”
  2. Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation. “By the end of this conversation, I would like to accomplish…” “What else would you like to make sure that we address?”
  3. Agree on the process for the conversation. “Here’s how I thought we could proceed…” “How does that sound?”

This sounds almost too simple to bother with, but without it, employees often aren’t clear about what the issues are and how they can use them to grow and develop. Whether the manager or the coachee initiates the conversation and brings up the topic isn’t as important as setting up the conversation and clarifying what’s going to be discussed, what outcomes are intended, and how the conversation will proceed.

These three steps will save the manager from needing to have the same conversation twice. Using a checklist will stop your conversations from being task updates or from derailing into details. You will start to talk about what really matters and help your people to grow and develop their thinking skills.

In your work, do you use any checklists? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached via my website, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

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