Four Steps to Being More Coach-Like in Your Conversations

Businesspeople With Digital Tablet Having Meeting InOffice“How did you do that?”

This is a question we hear often from Blanchard clients. In a recent conversation with an organizational sponsor, I was asked to explain how Blanchard coaches were able to consistently help leaders in a high potential coaching program to make changes that stuck.

Our client knew all about the skills we used—listening, asking powerful questions that foster client insight, and a number of other techniques. What she really wanted to know was more about the engine behind the coaching.

The four-step coaching model Blanchard uses isn’t linear. It’s also not a script. There is a fluidity that comes with all great coaching, and it can be described in four simple and elegant elements.

The first step is to Connect. Connecting is about building rapport and trust. This is one of the most critical things a coach must do, and it takes only seconds. It’s more than what the coach says or does—it’s when they believe in their client. They care. They are interested, fully present, and in the moment. People intuitively know when a true connection exists. They can feel it. And they respond to it with trust and openness. Watch what happens when you stop multitasking and really, truly listen to the person you are talking to—you create a connection.

The second element is Focus. Last week my daughter walked in the door, upset. She’d had a bad experience driving on the freeway, her professor had assigned her to a workgroup she didn’t like, and she had missed out on a party over the weekend. As we sat and talked, it became clear these experiences were surface issues. The main reason for her distress? She was frustrated about a situation with a co-worker. Once she knew her focus, she was able to create a strategy for dealing with the person in question. Great coaching helps get to the root of a problem. It takes agility. It’s not uncommon for clients to start out talking about one thing and end up talking about another. Drilling down to the real subject at hand is a little like mining—you’ll know when you hit the mother lode.

Coaching, at its most effective, is also about change. A client may need to shift their attitude, adopt a new behavior, or get closure on a nagging issue. Whatever the change, encouraging clients to take action is key. Activate, the third element in Blanchard’s coaching model, is about identifying short term and long term actions that will move a client toward their objectives. It’s about closing gaps between a current state and a desired state. It takes courage  to stick with a client until they believe they can successfully take action and move toward their goals.

The final element in Blanchard’s coaching model is about gaining clear agreements. I recently became part of a new team that is learning how to collaborate. In every meeting, we Review what we’ve just agreed to. It’s astonishing how easily misunderstandings can happen. Spending time reviewing next steps, actions, timelines, and responsibilities can take diligence. The payoff is an agreement to specific outcomes along with a deeper commitment to taking appropriate and relevant action. As a coach, I often ask clients “What did we/you just agree to?” This gives them an opportunity to clarify the actions they will take in a specific time frame.

Looking to be more coach-like in your conversations? Take a coach approach—Connect, Focus, Activate, and Review. Engage in focused conversations that lead to desired change.

About the Author

Patricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

2 thoughts on “Four Steps to Being More Coach-Like in Your Conversations

  1. Thanks for stressing how useful and meaningful these four elements are, Patricia. The way you articulated how critical is the Review phase resonated with me. I have observed how sometimes my clients and/or myself overlook the Review phase for the sake of moving to the next item. The result: requests to clients do not get completed as agreed and therefore they do not result as transformational as expected. Thanks again for sharing!

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