Have you considered a 30-minute window every week to think about your coaching conversations? Check out further ideas in the excerpt below from Ruchira Chaudhary's Coaching: The secret code to uncommon leadership.

I’ve tried to list out a few suggestions for a successful coaching session. While these will work best when you have the luxury of time, you cannot go wrong if you tried these principles in an informal setting.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

One of the reasons busy executives shy away from coaching, as author and science journalist Daniel Goleman found out, is the scarcity of time at hand. So, using this time well and most importantly, being prepared for your session, will go a long way in helping you achieve efficiency, and give you a more defined or standardised way to think about coaching.

A 30-minute window every week to think about your coaching conversations, perhaps? A slot that is sacrosanct and should ideally not be moved around.

This is the time to think and plan, to think about your team, who needs behavioural feedback urgently, who deserves credit for a job well done, someone is not herself, maybe it’s time to get to check in with them? A new employee you know little about but want to build a relationship with, an employee you haven’t talked to in a while.

Split this 30-minute window into what you need to do to further their development in the short term, and eventually in the long term, based on your past experience with them.

If you are meeting an employee for their first coaching session, do set expectations right. Invite them to write to you about their goals or expectations in advance of the formal coaching, to help you prepare better and smarter. This is a great practice for new as well as old employees.

For each of your direct reports, write down two or three specific strengths and the same number of tasks they could do better.

In advance of your meeting, allocate time to go to the gemba (or see them in action if feasible) and discreetly gather data and insights to form your hypothesis. Your last coaching session should be at least six months before the appraisal, but nothing stops you from hitting that gold standard of once a quarter.

Before you commence the actual session, do block off 15 minutes from all distractions to simply think and focus on your coachee—her skills, interests, motivations, aspirations, past contribution, etc. Then think about a few possible questions to know more about the areas that you don’t know about.

More importantly, suspend all judgment and bias, remind yourself to approach the session with an open mind, and display genuine curiosity about the individual, her life at work (and often outside work), her aspirations, and her motivations.

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Set the groundwork

Several studies have shown that people tend to achieve more, in a more sustainable way, when they’re in a positive state both psychologically and physically.

Anthony Jack from the Western Reserve University found that students who were coached for compliance—with an emphasis on targets and on challenges they needed to overcome—were left feeling ‘guilty and self-conscious’. A kind of coaching that, instead, focused on their personal dreams and they might achieve them, in contrast, elicited positive emotions.

Neuroimaging studies corroborated this finding by showing that it activated areas of brains associated with openness to new ideas, change and learning.

To get someone into the right mindset, you have to be genuine and sincere when you say that you have their best interests at heart, professionally.

That your goal is to make them more capable, provide them greater clarity, boost their confidence and self-belief. You also have to candidly talk about feedback that is designed to build better self-awareness and consciousness.

Setting the groundwork is also about building a ‘real’ connection and assuring your coachee that this session is a safe space without fear of being penalised. Also, reiterate that the coaching session is not a performance review linked to their bonus.


Extracted from Coaching: The Secret Code to Uncommon Leadership (authored by Ruchira Chaudhary) with permission from Penguin Random House India

About the author: Ruchira straddles the corporate and academic worlds – she is a leading executive coach, adjunct faculty at several top-tier business schools, and runs a boutique consulting firm focused on organisational strategy solutions. Her diverse background in M&As, organisation effectiveness, and strategy execution, coupled with two decades of experience in emerging markets, helps her grasp challenging people issues. 

Image / Book cover provided by Penguin Random House India

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