A Coaching Power Tool created by Karen Atwell
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
When coaching is mandated as an organizational directive, there is a tendency for the coachee to look for the deliverable desired by their manager or the organization. The coach (internal or external) must develop the skills necessary to identify compliant transactional conversation and help the coachee dig deeper for the transformational benefits inherent in coaching. When a coachee reaches transformational thinking, sustainable change is more likely to happen. In the case of a sale professional, for instance, increased sales activities are more easily reached when the commitment comes from the coachee’s internal enthusiasm or “willingness” and not from directive-based communication from the “coach”/manager. To achieve this level of communication, coaches must build a trusted coaching relationship that stands alone from their positional influences.
How do we create a transformational environment that inspires a willing participant in coaching? Let’s begin by understanding what a low-will compliant coachee may manifest. “Compliant” has synonyms such as yielding, accommodating and complaisant. It is defined by Marriam-Webster as conforming to requirements. When coachees approach coaching conversation in a compliant manner, it demonstrates a lack of willingness to be coached. If willingness is not present – that is to say, if the coachee is not willing to engage in honest exploratory thinking openly with a coach – no sustainable change in behavior will occur.
In such a case, the coachee will benefit most if the coach addresses the willingness first in an effort to shift the coachee’s perspective. Let’s use as example, a sales manager coaching a sales professional to increase prospecting activity.
To identity transactional responses listen for statements that have a defensive tone or represent historic, check-the-box perspectives. For example, a coachee may make statements such as:
- Last year I brought in 20 new clients. That was more than anyone else.
- I’m already planning to send mailings out to a new list of prospects.
- I have had great success with my current process. I’m not sure what you want me to change.
- Am I in trouble for something? Is the company not happy with my performance?
- Why are you focusing on me? I’m doing better than most?
These types of responses indicate that the coachee is not in a place of trust. As we know, trust is imperative in a coaching relationship. Without this trust and willingness, the coachee will not benefit fully, nor will they sustain any benefit long-term.
With a willing participant, a coachee will embrace such questions as:
- Which are your favorite client relationships? What makes them your favorite?
- How did you acquire these clients? What similarities do you see?
- What strategies can you use to get in front of prospects that share these similarities?
In conversation with a non-willing coaching participant, questions like those above will illicit closed, transactional responses. To help shift willingness and move away from transactional thinking, the questioning methods will need to change. An example of how this change may sound is:
- What benefits can you see in increasing your prospect activities?
- You’ve told me a great deal about what you’ve done in the past. What ideas are you having that you have not tried yet? Where are you on these?
- How can I best help you as it relates to increasing your prospect pipeline?
- How might coaching conversation help you increase your sales?
- What boundaries around our conversations will help you feel inspired to continue our coaching?
- What benefits and challenges do you see in our coaching conversations?
- What do you need from me?
In addition to asking more willingness focused questions, it is also helpful to set rules of engagement for coaching before you begin the engagement. In the case of a manager or internal coach, outlining how coaching is different than managing, creating a coaching plan and structure, conducting your conversations in a neutral space and maintaining good coaching process and behaviors while coaching can also be a trust/willingness builder.
Moving an unwilling coachee to a place of trust and willingness will create the space for deeper transformational thought and reduce the occurrence of transactional, compliant responses. This will dramatically increase the sustainability of both process and behavior change.