Coaching Case Study By Rachel Tan
(Transformational Coach, SINGAPORE)
We spent a huge portion of our waking time in the workplace. Thus, the quality of that time, how comfortable we are at work, how motivated we are to engage in the he tasks at hand, how effective we feel, and how satisfied we are with the results we achieve, shall have an impact on who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Various studies have shown that the single most important factor determining a person’s sense of well-being in the workplace is the quality of the relationship that person have with his or her reporting Manager.
I have the privilege during my professional experience to coach a Team as a Team Leader. As I reflect upon my professional experiences with the Team, I have unknowingly during my engagement in various conversations with respective Team Member, been practicing the Coaching Up Model to inspire peak performance of individuals in the Team.
Why do I consider this experience to coach a privilege? At the end of this case study, I hope that you will also feel inspired to start practicing the Coaching Up Model in your organization.
How the Coaching Up Model Work at Work
The Coaching Up Model illustrates the technique on how to have the kind of fast, concentrated, and highly effective conversation the coach can have with his or her team in that situation—the core communication of which is done via one-on-one conversations.
Despite the effectiveness of this approach, the Coaching Up Model won’t work unless the Coach actually care about the person that he or she is working with.
So in practicing the model, it is recommended to keep in mind three guidelines:
- Your team member must trust that you respect him or her and care about his or her well-being and success.
- Remember that it’s not enough for you to respect and care about your team member in your private heart of hearts; you’ve got to communicate it. There will be many opportunities to communicate that respect day after day, consistently, in the course of everyday interactions. Building that kind of respectful and trusting relationship is like socking saving away in a bank, but more fun.
- In conducting a Coaching Up Conversation, you must be both sincere and humble. While it’s important to bring your whole best self to the conversation, you must also, critically, take yourself out of it. This is not about you, it’s your team member that you are coaching.
The coaching model boils down to these three essential elements :
- Build an authentic connection.
- Provide genuine support.
- Offer concise direction.
The key principles that contribute to building an authentic connection in a Coaching Up conversation are pretty simple:
- If possible, choose the setting for maximum comfort.
- Greet your team member warmly and personally.
- Begin the conversation with a human connection, not a function.
- Keep your posture relaxed, and speak slowly, clearly, and thoughtfully.
- Stay focused on your team member.
- Practice humor and humility
The following behaviors can also be incorporated when building an authentic connection with reference to ICF Core Competency 3 – “Establishing Trust and Intimacy with The Client, defined as Ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.”:
- Shows genuine concern for the team member’s welfare and future.
- Continuously demonstrates personal integrity, honesty and sincerity.
- Demonstrates respect for team member’s perceptions, learning style and personal being.
There are lots of ways, big and small, verbal and nonverbal, to give someone genuine support. Basically, providing genuine support comes down to making people feel good, whether about themselves, their performance, their progress, their prospects for the future, or all of these at once. Here are some of the ways the Coach can provide genuine support in a Coaching Up Conversation:
- Offer positive feedback
- Share a broader view
- Remove obstacles in your team member’s path
The Coach can also provide genuine support through ICF Core Competency 7 – “Direct Communication, as Ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client.”:
- Clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback.
- Re-frames and articulates to help the team member understand from another perspective what he/she wants or is uncertain about.
- Clearly states meeting agenda.
- Uses language appropriate and respectful to the team member (e.g., non-sexist, non-racist, non-technical, non-jargon).
Genuine support can also be supported through following behaviors of ICF Core Competency 8 – “Creating Awareness defined as Ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed upon results.”:
- Invokes inquiry for greater understanding, awareness and clarity.
- Identifies for the team member’s underlying concerns, typical and fixed ways of perceiving himself/herself and the world, differences between the facts and the interpretations, disparities between thoughts, feelings and actions.
- Helps team member to discover for themselves the new thoughts, beliefs perceptions, emotions, moods, etc. that strengthen their ability to take action and achieve what is important to them.
- Communicates broader perspectives to team member and inspires commitment to shift their viewpoints and find new possibilities for action,
- Helps clients to see the different, interrelated factors that affect them and their behaviors (e.g., thoughts, emotions, body, background),
- Expresses insights to team member in ways that are useful and meaningful for him/her.
There are many ways to offer concise direction. Four of the best are these: directly, indirectly, Socratically—to offer direction by asking carefully shaped questions, and circuitously—although it’s almost always better to go directly to the team member, under some circumstances, it may prove useful to go through one of his or her teammates.
Following behaviors can also compliment the process of offering concise direction with reference to ICF Core Competency 9 –“Designing Actions is defined as – Ability to create with the client opportunities for ongoing learning, during coaching and in work/life situations and for taking new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed upon coaching results”.:
- Brainstorms and assists the team member to define actions that will enable the him or her to demonstrate, practice and deepen new learning.
- Helps the team member to focus on and systematically explore specific concerns and opportunities that are central to agreed upon coaching goals.
- Engages the team member to explore alternative ideas and solutions, to evaluate options and to make related decisions.
- Promotes active experimentation and self-discovery, where the team member applies what has been discussed and learned during sessions immediately afterwards in his/her work or life setting
- Challenges team member’s assumptions and perspectives to provoke new ideas and find new possibilities for action.
- Advocates or brings forward points of view that are aligned with team member’s goals and without attachment, engages the client to consider them.
- Encourages stretches and challenges but also a comfortable pace of learning.
In any new relationship or first-time critical conversation, the first priority must be building the connection, followed by providing the support, followed by offering concise direction. So, in the course of a 30-minute one-on-one conversation with a direct report, it is suggested to spend 15-minutes on connecting, 10-minutes on supporting, and 5-minutes on offering direction.
When you have a solid relationship with your team member, it’s not necessary to authentically connect, genuinely support, and provide concise direction in every conversation. Sometimes you can skip the connection part and move right into supporting and directing.
And even better, you can often skip over both the connection-building and the support-providing parts and jump right into offering the concise direction. Thus, one of the big benefits of practicing the Coaching Up Model is that, in the long run, it saves you time by enabling you to jump quickly into tackling pressing issues. However, if you move to a pattern of constant direction in all communications, even with people with whom you have succeeded in forging an authentic connection, you run the risk that over time you may erode the foundation of your relationship. Thus it’s good policy to periodically reinforce your connection, provide genuine support, and show your appreciation by recognizing the team member both privately and publicly.
Case Study Application
Conversation 1: Build an authentic connection
I initiated a breakfast session with Team Member A, and offered to buy the breakfast that both of us like. The main objective for this session is to allow me to build connection with the team member.
Location for the breakfast was outside of the office, at an open space on the ground level of our office building. The reasons for selecting this location are: (i) located outside of the office, (ii) spacious open space and (iii) nice music on the background, to provide the setting for maximum comfort for the conversation.
During the breakfast session, the conversation was focused on the team member whom shared about her personal priorities which are work-life balance and family. The conversation engaged with Team Member Aallows me to demonstrate the following behaviors to build an authentic connection with her:
- Stay focused on the team member – Through selecting the setting for maximum comfort and minimum distractions.
- Shows genuine concern for herwelfare and future – Asking questions that reflect understanding of her priorities, and identifies her underlying concerns.
- Demonstrates respect for her perceptions and personal being – Acknowledged understanding of her perceptions without any attachment.
Conversation 2:Provide genuine support
The conversation was initiated by Team Member B whom would like to discuss and share her views and feedback on a newly allocated scope of work that she had managed for a couple of months.
For this conversation, I decided to hold the session in a meeting room within the office premise as the agenda is on a deeply officialwork topic. As I have opportunities prior to this conversation to build a personal relationship with Team Member B, I am able to skip the connection part and move right into supporting her on the issues that matters.
The conversation engaged with Team Member A allows me to demonstrate the following behaviors to providegenuine support for her:
- Offer positive feedback – Be clear and direct, by praising her for the positive attitudes and efforts that have been demonstrated to learn and undertake the newly allocated scope of work.
- Share a broader view – Re-frames and articulates to help her understand from another perspective how she can view the challenges that she is facing and concerns that she is uncertain about.
- Remove obstacles in your team member’s path – Helps her to discover for herself the new thoughts, beliefs perceptions, emotions, moods, etc. that strengthen her ability to take action and overcome the challenges and concerns.
Conversation 3:Offer concise direction
The conversation was initiated by Team Member C whom would like to discuss about her performance and career development in the organization.
A café nearby was chosen for location of this conversation, to provide the setting for maximum comfort for the conversation and also opportunity for me to connect with her during the short journey of walking together from the office to the café prior to the conversation.
AsI have builta solid relationship with Team Member C, I can skip over both the connection-building and the support-providing parts and jump right into offering the concise direction during the conversation. Iwas able to offer the directions through following ways:
- Directly – Engages the Team Member to explore alternative ideas, and to evaluate options and to make related decisions. Bring forward points of view that are aligned with her goals and without attachment, engages her to consider them.
- Socratically – Offer direction by asking carefully shaped questions, and circuitously. Brainstorms and assists her to define actions that will enable her to achieve her goals.
The above case study applications have helped to demonstrate that superb performance is all about relationships. The best coaches are simply, at the bottom, the best, most inspirational relationship builders. They focus their time and energy on building authentic connections with their team members, providing genuine support to them in good times and bad, and saving their direction for the end of the conversation and keeping it concise.
The Coaching Up model coupled with the appropriate ICF Core Competencies can definitely be incorporated together into the coaching process to achieve effective coaching and maximize the outcome to inspire peak performance from the team member.
At this point, I would like to also illustrate the values and beliefs of a coaching manager with following summary which compliments the Coaching Up Model and could be helpful reference points during the coaching process:
In conclusion, I would like to highlight the following powerful quotes :
Behavioral studies continue to show that positive reinforcement works more than seven times better than negative criticism to change behavior.- Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson, 100 Ways to Motivate Others: How Great Leaders Can Produce Insane Results Without Driving People Crazy
Much have been said about why people leave their organizations. The cliché has emerged that people don’t quit the company, they quit their boss. Our research confirms that the boss has an enormous impact on how people behave and whether they stay or leave the organization.- John H. Zenger, Joseph R. Folkman, and Scott K. Edinger, The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate
 COACHING UP : INSPIRING PEAK PERFORMANCE WHEN IT MATTERS MOST
Jordan LancasterFliegeland Kathleen Landis Lancaster, Wiley Publishing, 2016
 THE LITTLE BOOK OF BG COACHING MODELS : 76 WAYS TO HELP MANAGERS GET THE BEST OUT OF PEOPLE
Bob Bates, Pearson Publishing, 2015
 BRILLANT COACHING : HOW TO BE A BRILLANT COACH IN YOUR WORKPLACE
Julie Starr, Pearson Publishing, 2012
 50 TOP TOOLS FOR COACHING : A COMPLETE TOOLKIT FOR DEVELOPING AND EMPOWERING PEOPLE
Gillian Jones and Ro Gorell, Kogan Page Publishing, 2012