What comms pros can learn from coaching

Last year I became an ILM trained coach in my Service, which means people from across the organisation can choose me to coach them through their work challenges.

I have coached a number of people under the umbrella of a formal coaching relationship, where we set objectives to be worked on over a period of usually four sessions.

I’ve also found coaching skills to be useful in informal/ad-hoc scenarios too – both in corridor conversations and in team meetings to drive performance.

But first, what is coaching?

The very simple answer is using your mouth less and your ears more. It’s about finding the right questions to help someone unlock their potential so that they find the solutions to their challenge – not you suggesting a whole host of ways to tackle it.

In Michael Bungay’s book ‘The Coaching Habit’, he suggests that it “will help your team to be more self-efficient by increasing their autonomy and sense of mastery and by reducing your need to jump in, take over and become the bottleneck”.

How can communications professionals use coaching?

  1. Strategically coaching senior leaders – Reframing situations, building confidence in fronting comms on new channels and importantly using effective questioning to draw out the priority issues.
  2. Managing team conversations – rather than provide the answers all the time, asking the team what they think. Obviously only do this when it’s an appropriate situation – not in a crisis!
  3. Facilitating workshops – asking the right questions to unlock the conversation and get others to participate.
  4. Providing tactical communication guidance – rather than internal clients coming to the team with channels in mind first, it’s been helpful to ask questions about what they want to achieve.
  5. Corridor conversations – The question ‘Have you got 2 minutes?” when someone sees you can work wonders when you adopt coaching skills in the right situation. When they ask you a question about what they should do, ask them ‘what have they tried already?’ When they tell you ask them ‘what else could you do?’ and hopefully, an answer will come to them and you can be on your merry way in no time.

There are so many ways to use coaching and I’d suggest you read up (I recommend Coaching for Performance and The Coaching Habit), get yourself onto a course, and most importantly put it into practice.

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